I heard a few faint, froggy croaks coming from the dying perennials in the garden. It seemed a little late in the season for the local amphibians to be active. But wind and coolish temperatures didn’t deter an appearance by this little American Toad — hiding in the litter under the aging peony vegetation.
Amphibian skin is really quite special. It can absorb water like a sponge when its owner is dehydrated, and it can secrete a variety of chemicals its owner might use for defense. Poison dart frogs aren’t the only amphibians to use toxic chemicals to deter predators; several Toad species (in the genus Bufo) secrete a combination of chemicals called “bufotoxin”, which induce a variety of debilitating reactions in animals that try to eat them. Although concentrations of bufotoxin vary from species to species, one website claims that “the skin of an average-sized toad can cause significant symptoms and even death in humans and other animals”.
Pet owners beware — don’t let your dogs lick any toads.