Western Toad

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Western Toad (Bufo boreas)
in San Marcos, California

W.P. Armstrong 28 July 2011
Western (boreal) toad Bufo boreas ssp. boreas = Anaxyrus boreas ssp. boreas: The following images were taken in a residential area of Twin Oaks Valley in San Marcos, California during the summer of 2011. Although common in southern California during the 1950s, I have seen very few western toads in urbanized areas of San Marcos during recent years.

The large genus Bufo contains about 150 species of true toads in the amphibian family Bufonidae. Contrary to the old wives' tale (folk belief), toads do not cause warts if handled; however, the parotoid glands and warty skin of some species secrete a white, fatty substance that is toxic to some predators. According to CaliforniaHerps.Com (2011), the diet of Bufo boreas consists of a wide variety of invertebrates, including worms, spiders, moths, beetles, and ants. The prey is located by vision, then the toad lunges forward and quickly extends its large sticky tongue to catch the prey and bring it into the mouth. Tadpoles consume algae and detritis, including the scavenged carrion of fish and other tadpoles.

  Bufo boreas description on CaliforicaHerps.Com  

The indole alkaloid bufotenine occurs in the seeds of Yopo or Paricá (Anadenanthera peregrina), a South American leguminous tree of the Orinoco River basin (not to be confused with the leguminous genus Adenanthera). Indians of this region prepare a powder from the ground seeds which they use as a hallucinogenic snuff. Bufotenine (5-hydroxydimethyltryptamine) is a derivative of the indole alkaloid tryptamine, which is derived from the essential amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is one of the 8 (9) essential dietary amino acids in humans (which we cannot synthesize), and is widely distributed in the animal kingdom. Interestingly enough, bufotenine is also present in the skin secretion of certain toads of the genus Bufo, and explains the practice of licking toads by some people. The Sonoran Desert toad (B. alvarius) contains potent levels of bufotoxin and its psychoactive effects were reporedly known to precolumbian native Americans.

In my opinion the most remarkable species of Bufo is the "golden toad" (B. pereglines) of the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica. According to Wikipedia (2011), no specimen has been seen since 1989 and it is presumed extinct. The demise of this magnificent species is attributed to a combination of factors, including airborne pollution and, due to its restricted range, global warming. Frogs and toads are extremely sensitive indicators of environmental changes, as the uptake of oxygen and water through their skin can increase the concentration of pollutants, and their life cycle exposes them to water and airborne contaminants. In fact, ambibians are so sensitive to environmental changes that scientists have likened them to a canary in a coalmine.

Images Of Bufo boreas in San Marcos
All photo images taken with a hand held Nikon D-90 and Phoenix RF46N
Ring Flash using a 60mm Micro Nikkor AF-S F/2.8G ED Macro Lens.

Above image shows a conspicuous paratoid gland posterior to the eye.

Bufo boreas on the Santa Rosa Plateau of Riverside County

Western toads Bufo boreas before emerging from their burrow.