“Where I live”
Marine toads, also called “cane toads” or “giant toads,” are native to Central and South America and are established in other parts of the world as well, including Australia, the Philippines, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and southern Florida.
“How I live there”
Marine toads prefer forested areas near water but also adapt well to disturbed and degraded habitat. In non-native areas, they are mainly found around buildings, in yards, and near canals and ponds. They thrive in tropical and sub-tropical environments.
During the day and during cold or dry times of year, marine toads shelter in moist crevices or hollows. They come out at night to hunt for food. Their diet is vast and includes non-living prey, which is unusual for toads. They consume mainly insects but will also prey upon other invertebrates, frogs, small reptiles, birds, and small mammals. They also eat carrion, garbage, dog and cat food, and plant matter. Their voracious appetite has contributed greatly to their success.
“Making my mark”
Marine toads are a highly devastating invasive species in many parts of the world. Decades ago, they were deliberately introduced in Australia, Florida, and elsewhere to control agricultural pests and rodent populations, but they are now considered a pest species themselves. They prey upon and compete with native species and are highly toxic to predators, including pets.
If your dog or cat bites a cane toad, go to the vet immediately! People should avoid contact with cane toads as well because their secretions can irritate skin and eyes.
Cane toads living in tropical areas breed throughout the year while cane toads living in sub-tropical areas time their breeding to the onset of the rainy season. Breeding occurs in still or slow-moving water. With males literally riding on their backs, females lay many thousands of eggs in long strings underwater. Males immediately fertilize the eggs and then neither sex has anything more to do with raising offspring. Few of the eggs will produce offspring that survive to adulthood, as toad eggs and larvae are massively consumed by many predators, including fish, dragonfly larvae, and other water insects. Nonetheless, the “carpet bomb” strategy of reproduction – thousands of eggs to guarantee a few survivors – works well for this species, and cane toads seem to have no trouble proliferating.
“What eats me”
When marine toads are threatened, they secrete a milky toxin from the parotid glands behind their eyes. Small predators can become ill and may even die from the toxin but many other predators, including snakes, birds of prey, and some spiders, can consume marine toads with apparent immunity.
Marine toads are listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN, the world’s leading conservation organization. They are widely distributed across their native and introduced range.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Amphibia
- Genera: Rhinella
- Species: marina
What is an Animal Ambassador?
The Maryland Zoo refers to its special collection of education program animals as “Animal Ambassadors.” The Zoo currently cares for more than 60 Animal Ambassadors, representing more than 40 species, both native and exotic. These animals are managed separately from the rest of the Zoo’s collection and cannot be seen on exhibit at the Zoo. However, many can be seen up close and personal on a rotating basis at Creature Encounters, the Zoo’s outdoor education center; at camp and school programs at the Zoo; as featured participants in community-based Outreach programs; and at special events on and off Zoo grounds.
Animal Ambassadors spend countless hours working with their human handlers, developing bonds of trust and communication that will allow them to appear in front of audiences large and small. They are not show animals. They behave naturally, focusing audiences’ attention on their natural behaviors and adaptations and giving living, breathing meaning to concepts and topics that students may be studying.
Animal Ambassadors travel all over the state of Maryland and beyond, and many also make local and national media appearances, educating about wildlife while representing the Zoo and its commitments to animal welfare and conservation.
What is The Animal Embassy?
The Animal Embassy at The Maryland Zoo is an off-exhibit area that is not open to the public. It is where the Zoo’s “Animal Ambassadors,” or education program animals, live. The Embassy is home to more than 60 individual animals representing more than 40 different species. It is staffed by its own dedicated group of keepers and volunteers and has both indoor and outdoor living space for the animals.