The common European toad. Its Latin name is Bufo bufo. Toads are amphibians with short legs, fat bodies and lumpy skin. There are more than 500 species of true toads, called bufonids. They live mostly on land, in dark, damp places to keep their skins moist and cool. Toads crawl or hop rather than leap like frogs. Adults are carnivorous, feeding on insects, snails or worms. Larger toads will also eat fish, frogs and even small mammals. All toads have a pair of glands on the back of their heads that contain poison. Called bufotoxin, it is secreted (produced) by the toads when they are in danger of attack.
Common toads matingToad egg stringsCommon toads emerge from hibernation in spring and make for their breeding ponds. Most return to the pond where they themselves were spawned. The males, who arrive first, croak to attract females. The male then mounts the female's back, grasping it with its forelimbs in a grip called amplexus. As the female lays long strings of small black eggs, the male fertilizes them with his sperm.
After wandering about piggyback in the shallow water, the pair leave the strings of eggs—often draped around water plants—to hatch on their own. The eggs absorb water and swell in size. Tiny tadpoles hatch out after two to three weeks. At first they feed on the jelly surrounding their eggs, before swimming freely.
If in danger, some toads can inflate their lungs to an abnormal size, so that they appear larger to their predators.
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