Western Leopard Toad

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The western leopard toad is a medium to large-sized amphibian living in western South Africa. This toad prefers land near the coast, and is rarely if ever found more than about six miles (10 km) inland. The western leopard toad can be distinguished from its eastern counterpart by the brighter colors the western species has.

This toad’s scientific species name (pantherinus) comes from its common name. You can probably see the word “panther” in the species name; this comes from the mammal genus “panthera,” the genus that contains leopards. Leopard toads are named after the big cats because they have similar markings on their backs. Each individual toad has a unique marking that can be used for identification. Other than these spots, however, there are not many more similarities between the toad and the big cat. The western leopard toad has many other names such as the following: August frog, cape toad, panther toad, snoring toad, and southern panther toad.

Size

The western leopard toad, while much larger than many other frogs and toads, is also much smaller than several other amphibians. From its snout to the tip of its “tail” these animals can be up to five and a half inches (14 cm). These toads are sometimes rather “fat” (as are most toads), and while I could not find information about the weight of this animal, it is presumably more than that of frogs that are the same size.

Diet

As with all known toads, the western leopard toad is a carnivore. They consume mainly invertebrates such as snails, caterpillars, worms, and beetles. These animals are confirmed western leopard toad food, and these toads may also eat vertebrates such as small fish.

Call

Almost all frogs and toads, including this species, have a call, and almost each species has a different call. Male western leopard toads start calling in “early spring.” Notice how that is in quotes. Since these animals live in the Southern hemisphere, the seasons are swapped where they live. Therefore spring in the southern hemisphere is fall here in the northern hemisphere. Months, however, stay the same.

There’s your geography lesson for today, but lets continue with zoology. Starting in August and September, the males will call to attract females. This call sounds like snoring, giving this toad one of its nicknames, the snoring toad. This deep sound lasts for about one second and is repeated every three or four seconds.

Mating and eggs

Males, as I said earlier, will “snore” in the “spring” to attract females. At this time, both the males and females have congregated at different ponds all over their range. If a female is impressed with the males snoring, she will mate with him and then lay the eggs in the pond. Instead of breeding continuously throughout the breeding season like most animals do, the western leopard toad is what is known as an explosive breeder. They breed for just a few days at a time several times from August to October. Each female can lay up to 25,000 eggs! These eggs are laid in long, jelly-like strings  in order to protect them from predators.

Young

After hatching, the small, dark-colored tadpoles live near the bottom and feed on algae. Once ten to twelve weeks has passed, the tadpoles start undergoing metamorphosis. In between October and December (remember this is the beginning of summer in the southern hemisphere), the tadpoles leave the water as tiny adults that are only one centimeter long. A very small percentage of the young frogs will reach maturity which comes from one to three years of age for males and two to six years for the females.

Protection, threats, and status

As with most toads, the western leopard toad has one parotoid gland on each side of its head. These glands secrete a toxic liquid that helps defend this toad from predators. Despite this, these toads still fall prey to some animals such as fish, birds, snakes, and even other toads. The eggs and tadpoles do not have this protection, and therefore also fall prey to some of the same animals.

There are other threats to the western leopard toads that are not predators. Humans frequently accidentally kill these animals or keep them from mating. Thousands of toads each year, and many other animals, fall prey to giant metal machines we call cars. Most of these deaths happen at night when drivers cannot see the toads. Several volunteers all over the world will help frogs, toads, and other amphibians safely cross roads at night.

In urban areas many toads are prevented from mating because of walls that prevent them from getting to a mating site. Some ponds are no longer suitable for mating due to predatory fish, pollution, and invasive plants that cover the water. Some toads will mistake swimming pools for ponds and will then drown or miss the mating season if they cannot get out because of the vertical sides.

The IUCN reclist classifies these animals as endangered. If a western leopard toad can avoid all of these dangers it may face, it may be able to live for up to thirteen years.

Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!

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Sources:

Photo credits:

  • Western leopard toad – Serban Proches
  • Mystery animal – Public Domain
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