Species: American toad

Scientific name: Anaxyrus americanus

Nicknames: none

Claim to fame: The American toad is the type of toad most commonly seen throughout the Ozarks. Although American toads become active at dusk, they are often seen during the day, too, usually because someone has disturbed them from their place of rest.

Species status: The American toad is found throughout Missouri and in most parts of the eastern and central United States.

First discovered: The first scientific description of the American toad was written by the American naturalist John Edwards Holbrook in 1836.

Family matters: The American toad belongs to the Bufonidae family, a group of amphibians commonly known as the true toads. Though they share similarities in appearance, toads belong to a different family than frogs. (All Missouri frogs belong either to the Hylida, Ranidae, Pelobatidae, and Microphylidae families of amphibians.) One way to tell toads from frogs is that toads have dryer and bumpier skin than frogs. Toads also lack extensive webbing on their hind feet have large parotoid glands behind the eyes. Two sub-species of American toads occur in Missouri: The eastern American toad (Anaxyrus americanus americanus) occurs in the northern half of the state while the dwarf American toad (Anaxyrus americanus charlessmithi) toad occurs in the southern part of the state.

Length: The average American toad is between two and three inches in length, but some have been known to get up to four inches.

Diet: American toads eat earthworms and insects. Because of their insect consumption, American toads can be beneficial creatures to have around a garden.

Weight: data unavailable

Distinguishing characteristics: The general color of an American toad is gray, greenish-gray or brown. The call of the American toad is a sustained, high-pitched trill, lasting six to 30 seconds. American toads begin calling in late March or early April on warm nights. One of the best-known features of the American toad are its bumpy “warts.” These bumps yield a toxic poison that acts as a defense mechanism against some predators. There is no truth to the old tale that touching these bumps will give you warts.

Life span: There has been documentation of toads living up to 10 years in the wild, but one to two years is much closer to the norm in heavily populated areas. In captivity, an American toad was known to have lived 36 years before it was accidentally killed.

Habitat: American toads prefer rocky, wooded areas and often live along the edge of hardwood forests. During the day, they hide under rocks in areas where there is loose, moist dirt or they burrow into a depression where dead leaves have accumulated.

Life cycle: In Missouri, the peak of the breeding season occurs during mid-April. Breeding sites are usually ditches, small temporary ponds or slow, shallow streams. The male latches on to the female and fertilizes her eggs as they emerge from her body. A female toad usually produces between 2,000 and 20,000 eggs. The eggs hatch in about a week into tiny black tadpoles. These tadpoles remain in the water until early to middle June, at which time they metamorphose into small toadlets which are seven to 12 millimeters long.