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It is found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical swamps, swamps, freshwater marshes, and intermittent freshwater marshes. It is threatened by habitat loss.
The Surinam toad is similar in appearance to a mottled brown leaf, and is almost completely flat. Its feet are broadly webbed with the front toes having small, star-like appendages. Specimens of close to 20 cm (8 in) in length have been recorded, although 10-13 cm (4-5 in) is a typical size. The Surinam toad has minute eyes, no teeth and no tongue.
Surinam toads are best known for their remarkable reproductive habits. Unlike the majority of toads, the males of this species don't attract mates with croaks and other sounds often associated with these aquatic animals. Instead they produce a sharp clicking sound by snapping the hyoid bone in their throat. The partners rise from the floor while in amplexus and flip through the water in arcs. During each arc, the female releases 3–10 eggs, which get embedded in the skin on her back by the male's movements. After implantation the eggs sink into the skin and form pockets over a period of several days, eventually taking on the appearance of an irregular honeycomb. The larvae develop through to the tadpole stage inside these pockets, eventually emerging from the mother's back as fully developed toads, though they are less than an inch long (2 cm). Once they have emerged from their mother's back, the toads begin a largely solitary life.