Tuesday, June 5, 2012

If You Touch a Toad

You already know that I'm a sucker for jumping spiders, so it probably won't surprise you that toads tickle my fancy too. Again, it's often a matter of misunderstanding when such a charming creature gives people the creeps.

Photo by Jarek Tuszynski / Wikimedia

Let's face it, in this modern age of ecological enlightenment, it's time to ditch the superstition about warts. Not true, never was. But, that's not a green light to grab the nearest toad and give him smooches (admit it, I read your mind).

 "The Frog Prince" image by Marianne Stokes (1855–1927) / Wikimedia

First of all, the salts, oils, and cosmetics on human hands can irritate a toad's tender skin and compromise its health. Not nice. And second, common U.S. toad species have glands behind their eyes that secrete "bufotoxin," a substance designed to make toads taste bad to predators. It's not particularly hazardous to humans, but it can bother your mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth). So if you or your little Steve Irwin-in-training touches a toad, wash your hands. 

Photo courtesy of the USFWS

The bottom line: take a minute to get to know a toad. Observe his gently bumbling ways. Who knows, you may just fall in love with the portly little prince. No kissing required.

Curious Classroom Activity:
Create a cool interactive food web for the endangered Houston toad.



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