Many children (and maybe some adults!) enjoy the pastime of catching toads and frogs, but not all people are able to tell the difference between these amphibians. Although the two species may look similar, there are some key differences that can help you identify what you have caught.
This may sound confusing, but the first interesting fact about these amphibians is that all toads are frogs, but not all frogs are toads! This means that toads fall under the overarching category of “frog” but have some slightly different characteristics that make them a subset of frogs.
Toads belong to the Family Bufonidae within the Order Anura. They are typically nocturnal, and burrow under the ground in the daytime and come out at night to feed on insects. Toads do not have sticky tongues, so they must walk or hop up to the insect to consume it, which they do by swallowing whole. One unique thing about toads is the parotoid gland on the back of their heads. These glands contain a poison, which the toad excretes if it is feeling stressed or threatened. The poison has different effects on different animals; some may find it irritating while it may be fatal to others. Toads typically have dry warty skin, and you may have been told not to touch them or you may get warts as well! This is a myth, but avoid handling or touching toads too much as they have sensitive skin!
Frogs also belong to the Order Anura. They have sticky tongues, which they use to catch and swallow insects. One interesting fact about frogs is that they use their eyeballs to help them swallow! With the insect in their mouth, the eyeballs are pulled downwards, forcing the insect into the frog’s stomach! Canadian frogs have to be adapted to the cold winters and one thing that helps them survive is their ability to freeze! The Wood Frog, a common frog in Canada, is able to survive the harsh winters by freezing solid, and then thawing out in the spring.
The Key Differences
So… how can you tell these two amphibians apart? A frog's skin is typically wet and slimy whereas a toad will have dry, warty skin. Another clue is how the animal was walking when you approached it. If it was hopping, it's likely a frog, but if it was walking it's probably a toad! Toads have less strength in their hind legs and generally have a stout, squat body, and are not able to hop as well as frogs. Lastly, if you are lucky enough to spot their eggs, toads eggs will be in long strings, while frog eggs are in a clump!