Bio Facts: Toad, Surinam
Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela
Subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical swamps, swamps, freshwater marshes, and intermittent freshwater marshes
Adult length: 4 – 8 in (10 – 20 cm); appearance and coloration: large triangular head, small eyes with rounded pupils, and nostrils found at the end of two narrow tubes on the snout. The body is flat, brown or olive-colored, and covered by many tubercles. The front limbs are short and weak and the hind limbs are long, strong and webbed.
In the wild, they eat mostly aquatic invertebrates like worms, insects, crustaceans, and small fishes; in the Zoo, they are fed earthworms and small fish.
IUCN – Least Concern
Surinam toads are almost exclusively aquatic. In the wild, the animals space themselves using calls to communicate location and distance. They are usually quiet and still, resting on each other without disturbances. They lie on the bottom, returning to the surface for air generally every half hour. They do not leave the water voluntarily. Initially the young have trouble diving and remain near the surface of the water. They can immediately begin snapping at food. After one month they are capable of swimming and diving as practiced by adults. Using its star-shaped tactile organs on its fingertips to detect food, the Surinam toad lunges at and gulps down its prey.
Surinam toads are most well-known for their remarkable reproductive habits. Unlike the majority of toads, the males of this species cannot attract mates with croaks and other sounds often associated with these aquatic animals. Instead they produce a sharp clicking sound by snapping the hyoid bone in their throat. The partners rise from the floor while in amplexus and flip through the water in arcs. During each arc, the female releases 3-10 eggs, which get embedded in the skin on her back by the male’s movements. After implantation the eggs sink into the skin and form pockets over a period of several days, eventually taking on the appearance of an irregular honeycomb. The larvae develop through the tadpole stage inside these pockets (about 3 to 4 months), eventually emerging from the mother’s back as fully developed toads, though they are less than an inch long (2 cm). Once they have emerged from their mother’s back, the toads begin a largely solitary life.
Adapted for their aquatic lifestyle, the Surinam toad’s back feet are completely webbed, the body is flattened, and a lateral line system is present. The lateral line system is present in fish and is a sense organ used to detect movement and vibration in the surrounding water.
Pipids possess highly modified ears for producing and receiving sound underwater. They lack a tongue or vocal cords, and instead have bony rods in the larynx that help produce sound (sharp clicking described above).
The Pipidae are a family of primitive, tongueless frogs that dates back to the Cretaceous (144-66.4 bya).
Other common names include: Aparo, Rana Comun De Celdillas, Rana Tablacha, Sapo Chinelo, Sapo Chola, or Sapo De Celdas.
The eggs adhere only to the female’s back, possibly due to a cloacal secretion. They do not stick to the male’s belly or to other eggs already on the female’s back.
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining to qualify for listing in a more threatened category. It is not seriously threatened, but local populations are probably impacted by habitat loss and degradation due to logging, agricultural expansion, and human settlement.
Jacksonville Zoo History:
The Surinam toad was at the Jacksonville Zoo from 1978 to 1981 and was brought back into our animal collection in 2008.