Surinam Toads are unique looking toads with an unique reproduction strategy.
The Surinam Toad has great camoflage, making it look like a leaf or a rock at first glance. Its body is flat, its head is triangular, and its nostrils are at the end of two narrow tubes on its snout. The toad’s skin is pointy, rough, and colored a mottled brown, tan, or olive. Each finger on its forelimbs has a tiny, star-shaped tip, leading to the animal’s other name, the Star-fingered Toad.
Adult Surinam Toads are 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) in length and weigh 3.5 to 5.6 ounces (100 to 160 grams). Young are less than 1 inch (2 centimeters) at hatching.
The Surinam toad is an ambush hunter, lying patiently in wait for unsuspecting prey to pass by. It eats mostly crustaceans, small fish, worms, and other invertebrates. When the Surinam toad senses movement with its unique fingers, it lunges forward and eats its prey in one gulp. The toad does not have teeth or a tongue, so its large mouth helps it swallow food whole.
Unlike other toads, the Surinam toad has an unusual way of reproducing. Males call to the females by making a clicking sound underwater. A willing female releases 60 to 100 eggs, and the male fertilizes them and pushes the eggs onto her back, where they stick to her skin. During the next few days, her skin surrounds the eggs, forming a honeycomb structure of pockets, and eventually encloses them completely. After hatching, the young ride on her back for three to four months, continuing to develop under her skin.
When ready, the fully formed toadlets push and squirm to loosen the female’s skin, causing the pockets on her back open up to reveal the parts of the toadlets. Soon, they pop out of their holes and head for the water’s surface to breathe and begin life on their own. The little toads can start eating food right away, and may even eat their siblings. The mother then sheds her skin, ready for the next breeding season.
Incubation period for these toads are 12 to 20 weeks. Surinam Toads mature at ages 2-3. They can live up to 8 years.
As long as the rain forests and swampy forests in South America still exist, the Surinam toad will not be in danger. However, like many rain forest dwellers, the toad could be wiped out as humans continue logging and farming in these areas.
- The Surinam toad is technically an aquatic frog, but its rough skin earned it the “toad” moniker.