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Bufo fowleri (Hinckley, 1882)
Fowler's toads are usually brown, grey, olive green and rust red in color and have black edged dark spots on its back, with a light middorsal stripe. In each of the dark spots there are found to be three or more "warts". The ventral surface (belly) is usually whitish and almost completely unspotted. A. fowleri is noted for having a single dark spot on its otherwise spotless belly. Males are often found to be darker in color while females are found to be lighter. Its body measures between 5 to 9.5 cm in length. Fowler's toad tadpoles have a short oval body and a long tail with an upper and lower fin. Their size is 1 to 1.4 cm long (Wright, 1949; Collins, 1991).
A. fowleri is known to reproduce in warmer seasons of the year, usually between the months of May and June. Breeding sites are located in shallow waters that are very open, including farm ponds, lake edges, marshes, and woodland ponds. Breeding habits of A. fowleri are very similar to Anaxyrus americanus. The male will migrate to the breeding sites where he will begin calling his mate in intervals that can last up to thirty seconds. The call often attracts both male and females which will cause mistaken identities in the breeding process. This mistake occurs when one male tries to mate with another male. Fortunately, the first male will realize the mistake, because the other male will let out a chirping "release call" that informs the male of his mistake. When the male finally meets his mate, the male will try to clasp the female from behind (called amplexus). From this position the male can fertilize up to 7,000–10,000 eggs. Fertilization is external. The eggs are known to hatch in two to seven days. The tadpoles will begin to undergo the change into tiny toads thirty to forty days later. In one growing season, Anaxyrus fowleri may grow to sexual maturity, but slower growing individuals may take up to three years before they reach their sexual peak (Harding, 1992; Harding, 1997).
There are some conflicting opinions about the behavior of A. fowleri. One source indicates that this type of toad is completely nocturnal (Behler,1996). Another source states that Fowler's toad is mostly active in the daytime, except during hot days or very cold days when it will burrow into the ground (Harding, 1992). Both sources agree on how Anaxyrus fowleri reacts to predators and the defenses they use to protect themselves. Potential predators of B. fowleri include snakes, birds, and smaller mammals. One defensive behavior it will use is its coloration to blend into its surroundings (camouflage). These toads are able to do this because they tend to have coloration that is more natural, or earth toned. Another defense includes a noxious secretion that comes from the large warts on their backs. If attacked, this secretion will irritate the predator's mouth and, if ingested, can be poisonous to smaller mammals. If roughly handled, A. fowleri will also lie still on their backs and play dead (Behler, 1996; Harding, 1992; Harding, 1997).
Anaxyrus fowleri is commonly found in areas of the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Its range consists of New Hampshire to eastern Texas, eastern Arkansas, Missouri, and southeastern Iowa, eastward into Michigan through Ohio, and West Virginia to the Atlantic coast. Extensions include up the Hudson, Delaware, Susquehanna, Ohio, and other rivers and into southern Ontario along Lake Erie.
The adults eat insects and other small terrestrial invertebrates, but shy away from earthworms, unlike their close relative, Anaxyrus americanus. As a tadpole, Anaxyrus fowleri use their mouth, which is rimmed with tooth-like structures, to scrape attached algae from rocks and plants. The tadpoles are also known to feed on bacteria and other organic material from the water (Harding, 1997).
Protection of the breeding sites for Anaxyrus fowleri is very important to their existence. Off-road vehicles that are commonly used in beach and dune habitats are damaging to this species. Also, the use of agricultural chemicals share in the blame for the decline of Bufo fowleri in some areas. They are considered a species at risk in Ontario and Canada.
- Fowler's Toad, Natural Resources Canada
- Vereecke, M. 2001. Anaxyrus fowleri (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed 7 May 2012.
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