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Every week there are new marvels to look for in the outdoors, and Discover Nature highlights these attractions. The Missouri Department of Conservation’s Josh Hartwig brings us the stories of river otters, luna moths, red buds, and other actors as they take center stage in nature’s theater.You can hear Discover Nature, Mondays at 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m.

Discover Nature: Toad or Frog?

Missouri Department of Conservation
American toad.

Discover Nature this week with Missouri's Toads and frogs. You see and hear them near water and wooded areas, but how can you tell the difference between these two amphibians?

Most Midwestern states have between 15 and 20 kinds of toads and frogs. And although both bear a strong resemblance, there are some interesting distinctions between them.

Toads and frogs are predators that help keep populations of insects and other small animals in balance. They (and their eggs, tadpoles, and young) become food for both aquatic and terrestrial predators ranging from water bugs and fish to birds and raccoons.

For the most part, toads are dry and have rough skin; frogs feel slimy and have smooth skin. Toads have short hind legs, just right for hopping; frogs have large, powerful hind legs and can jump a long way in one leap. Toads have little or no webbing between the toes on their hind feet; frogs have a lot of webbing between their toes, which provides for a powerful stroke when swimming.

One of the least familiar differences between toads and frogs is that toads have no teeth, while all frog species have teeth. But frogs’ teeth resemble sandpaper – which is just right for holding onto the insects they eat. And both toads and frogs eat vast numbers of insects.

Even the eggs of toads are distinct from frogs’ eggs. Female toads lay their eggs in two long strands, which look like a string of beads. Frogs deposit their eggs in large masses or clumps. Toads lay several thousand eggs in flooded fields, ditches, ponds, pools and streams. These hatch in about a week. The black tadpoles begin to change into toadlets by late June or mid-July.

The males of each kind of toad and frog have distinct breeding calls. So, take a listen next time you’re outside. You’ll more than likely hear the chirps, croaks, trills, and peeps of these animals fill the night air in spring and early summer.

More information about toads and frogs in Missouri can be found online at missouriconservation.org

Josh Hartwig is the host of Discover Nature and a media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.
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