Working with frogs

Carla Ann Hass CAH19 at psuvm.psu.edu
Fri Jul 7 14:47:18 EST 1995


The distinction between frog and toad really is not a scientific one.  The
members of the family Bufonidae are often referred to as the "True Toads"
but there are many species that have toad in their common name scattered
throughout the other families of frogs.  As far as I can tell, toad is
usually applied to species that have noticably rough, and usually less-moist
skin (someone already pointed this out).  In the U.S., one other group of
frogs from a different family (Pelobatidae) are commonly called toads - the
spadefoot toads.  In the U.S., one member of the family Microhylidae
is called a toad - Gastrophryne carolinensis has the common name "narrow-
mouthed toad" - while another member of the same family is called a frog -
Hypopachus variolosus, the "sheep frog".  I have caught quite a few narrow-
mouthed toads and they are not rough, so I am not sure why they have toad in
their common name.  In Australia, there is a family of frogs not found in the
U.S. - the Myobatrachidae.  For one genus (Pseudophryne) in that family, most
of the species have "toadlet" in their common name (they are very small) but
one species is the Corroboree Frog, although it has granular, warty skin.

Harold Cogger (author of a book on Australian reptiles and amphibians) blames
all this confusion on the Europeans.  "...because popular usage of the terms
"frog" and "toad" is based largely on the European experience of Australia's
most recent migrants - the western Europeans ... - the terms were applied
solely on the basis of resemblance of New Holland's amphibian inhabitants to
those which occurred 'back home', without any regard for modern phylogenetic
relationships.  Thus, slow, warty, terrestrial forms became 'toads' or
'toadlets' and active, smooth-skinned climbers and jumpers became 'frogs'."
This still does not explain why we call narrow-mouthed toads 'toads' and
sheep frogs 'frogs' - neither are climbers, although both can jump.  I guess
we are nothing if not inconsistent.

At any rate - enjoy looking for herps in New York.  We have about the same
species here in central PA (a few more).  I've collected there a few times - I
did my masters on Plethodon cinereus, the red-backed salamander - and found
quite a few beautiful critters.

Carla Hass
State College, PA




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