Description: This stout toad reaches an average adult size of 2-4 inches, with males being smaller than females. Like other closely related members of this genus, the Southern Toad has rough, warty skin and is generally brownish in coloration, with a wide variation patterning. Dorsal spots may appear on the back and will contain 1 or 2 warts. The prominent knobs on the cranial ridges are the best means for differentiating this species from similar species that may overlap in its range.
Natural History: This species is more terrestrial than most other frogs in its range. They are most often seen hopping through leaf litter in damp, deciduous forests on warm, humid days. They are also often found seeking refuge under forest floor debris or in other animals burrows.
They can be active on warm days almost year round, but most breeding takes place in late winter and spring. Following rains, these toads will congregate in shallow, standing water along pond edges, in drainage ditches, or in ephemeral wetlands. Males will emit a long, high-pitched trill to attract females. If successful they will wrap themselves around the larger females back and fertilize her long strings of eggs as they are laid in shallow water. Females generally lay around 3000 eggs and the eggs will only take couple of days to hatch into tadpoles. Tadpoles will increase to a size of about a half-inch before undergoing metamorphosis. This event is triggered by a variety of environmental factors, but usually occurs 5-7 weeks after hatching. Toadlets emerging from wetlands can be very numerous and it will take 2-3 years to reach sexual maturity.
Tadpoles will consume algae and other plant material, while toads eat about anything they can fit in their mouth such as insects, small reptiles, and other amphibians. In turn, tadpoles are consumed by large insects, fish, and larger amphibians inhabiting their breeding wetland. Toads are protected from many predators by their toxic and distasteful skin secretions produced by their parotoid glands. But are still consumed by several snake species such as hognose snakes and watersnakes. When captured they will inflate themselves to appear larger.
Similar Species: Fowlers and American Toads both overlap in range in some areas, and both look similar. They have less pronounced knobs on their cranial ridges. Fowlers toads also contain three or more small warts inside their dorsal spots. Oak toads can look similar as well, but they are smaller, with shorter limbs, darker coloration, and do not hold themselves as upright as other toads in the region.
Distribution: This toad is found throughout the coastal Southeastern United States, typically below the fall line. Their range extends from the Mississippi river, throughout Florida, north to southern Virginia. There are small isolated populations in northwestern South Carolina.
Contributed by Jake Zadik (1/16/22)