By Mark Leach, Marketing Manager at the Society of Biology
Following my recent ‘amateur biologist’, blog AJ Cann posed the question – ‘So what’s the difference between a frog and a toad?’
Working on the premise that my initial response of ‘don’t really know’ wouldn’t have provided the most informative of blogs, I revisited my previous technique of typing his query into my search engine of choice.
I did know that they are both amphibians (by my understanding, a creature that is capable of living both on land and in water). However, to confuse things further, wikianswers advises that, while both toads and frogs are in the same group of animals (Anurans), toads are a specific family within this group called Bufonidae.
Thankfully, it gets simpler. Frogs live and breed mainly in water, and have teeth on the top of their mouths (frogs have teeth?!). On the other hand, toads are predominantly toothless land-dwellers. However, they compensate for their lack of teeth by having a paratoid (poison) gland behind their eyes, which means that they really don’t taste good to predators!
UK Safari adds that the skin of a frog will look quite smooth, while a toad will appear more ‘warty’. OK so far, but they then go on to say that a frog’s skin will be moist to the touch, while a toad’s will be dry and warty. Prodding amphibians really isn’t my thing (particularly when they are ‘warty’) and I guess it wouldn’t be much fun for them – always assuming that they would be happy to stand around waiting for finger contact!
However, the site then goes on to explain that frogs will have a raised back with two straight lines running down it, while a toad’s back is generally more flattened. Also, if it’s jumping away from your outstretched finger it’s probably a frog – apparently toad’s legs aren’t as strong, and they tend to hop or walk.
Froglife goes on to say that frogs will lay clumps of spawn in shallower water, as opposed to the long strings of spawn laid by toads. Toad spawn will usually be found wrapped around vegetation in slightly deeper water. Both tadpoles are black at the outset, although frog tadpoles will become a mottled brown as they develop. Also, both will grow their back legs first, but while toad tadpoles often form shoals, frogs are more antisocial (although they will stick together in a writhing mass when they first hatch).
So there you go! If you have any other queries for a keen amateur biologist, please let us know!