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Frogs and Toads – What's the Difference?

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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As the legend goes, each frog is just a prince waiting for the kiss of his princess. The toad, on the other hand, has a somewhat less attractive connotation: They are dark, squatty, lumpy-looking creatures that spread warts. Many people actually think frogs and toad are two separate species, and some are convinced that frogs are amphibians and toads are their reptile cousins. Despite a recent surge of interest in frogs and toads, misconceptions still abound.

The word "frog" is a general term. Toad is more specific. All toads are frogs but not all frogs are toads. For example, the Colorado River toad is a frog, and the green tree frog is not a toad. If this is still a little confusing, think of this. Your cuddly kitten may have very little in common with the lion, the King of the African jungle, but they both belong to the Felidae or "cat" family.

Amphibians are divided into three distinct orders: Frogs, salamanders and caecilians. Of these three, frogs comprise over 90 percent of all amphibians. All frogs and toads belong the order scientifically referred to as "Anura." The different types of frogs and toads are then further divided into various families and then different genera.

Finally, each distinct frog or toad is divided into different species. In fact, there are about 400 different species of toads all divided into over 30 different genera. Frogs and toads vary so much that the smallest one is around a third of an inch in length (Cuban Eleutherodactylus limbatus) and the largest is the Goliath frog, which measures up to 15.7 inches and weighs in at over 7 pounds.

However, in addition to their name and position on a species chart, frogs and toads can be differentiated by other means.

Toads have a special organ that other frogs do not. The Bidder's organ is a vestigial ovary that is found in the male toad. Another difference is that toads do not have teeth. This is an uncommon finding in species referred to as frogs.

In addition to body differences, toads differ from other frogs in their movement and life style. Toads really cannot jump like other frogs. They typically hop or crawl. Also, toads prefer to live their lives on the ground instead of in the trees, as many other frogs do. Despite their desire to be on firm soil, toads are quite adapt at climbing.

Hopefully, you have gained an understanding and appreciation for these amphibians. Toads and frogs are important and vital members of our world and the more we learn about them, the more we can learn about our environment and develop a deep admiration for these creatures.

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