Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Anura      Bufo americanus -- American Toad

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photo of Bufo americanus by Chris Phillips

Purple shade indicates vouchered specimens. Light blue (cyan) shade indicates photographic records. Yellow shade indicates verified sighting. Slanted hatch indicates pre-1980 records only

NOTE: Not all specimens upon which these maps are based have been verified.

Key Characters: Usually one or two large warts in each dark back spot; enlarged warts on lower leg; pronounced cranial crests.

Similar Species: Fowler's toad, eastern spadefoot.

Subspecies: Eastern American toad, B. a. americanus; dwarf American toad, B. a. charlesmithi.

Description: Large (up to 10 cm SVL) gray, brown, or reddish brown toad with numerous dark spots on back and heavily mottled chest and belly. Large bean-shaped parotoid gland behind each eye contacts cranial crests by short spur. Cranial crests higher than in Fowler's toad and more massive. The dwarf subspecies is much smaller and has less extensive mottling on chest and belly.

Habitat: Virtually all forest and prairie habitats in Illinois, including urban and agricultural areas, where flooded fields, ditches, and other bodies of water are available for reproduction.

Natural History: Outside of the breeding season, adults can be found under logs, rocks, and surface debris even in extremely dry microhabitats. Diet includes insects and earthworms. Poisonous skin secretions deter some predators. Breeding occurs from mid-April to early May when sustained high-pitched trills of males are heard from almost every aquatic habitat. Young males may call through late summer. Females lay several thousand black eggs in long strings held together by semitransparent membranes. Eggs hatch in a week and small jet-black tadpoles, which usually congregate in shallow water, transform within 40 days. Hundreds of tiny metamorphs are sometimes seen crossing nearby roads and trails.

Status: Known to hybridize with Fowler's toad in lower Mississippi River bottoms. Common throughout state, except Wabash Border Division (see distribution map, above).


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