Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

Anaxyrus quercicus is a very small toad with a maximum snout-vent length of 32 mm. The head is short with a pointed snout. Dorsal coloration is brown to silver grey with a cream to orange colored mid- dorsal stripe. There are 4-5 dark unconnected blotches on either side of this stripe. The ventral side is granular and cream colored. There is black banding on the arms and legs. The parotoids are tear-shaped, and descend on the sides to the inferior edge of the tympanum.

  • Ashton, R. E., Jr. and Franz, R. (1963). ''Bufo quercicus.'' Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, 222.1-222.2.
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Distribution

Range Description

This species occurs in the Coastal Plain, southeastern United States, from southeastern Virginia south through all of Florida and west to the Mississippi River in Louisiana (Conant and Collins 1991).
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Oak toads are found in the coastal plains of the southeastern United States. They are found from the southern tip of Florida to the southern portion of Virginia and to parts of eastern Louisiana.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Global Range: (200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)) Coastal Plain from southeastern Virginia south through all of Florida and west to the Mississippi River in Louisiana (Conant and Collins 1991).

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Distribution and Habitat

Distribution is restricted to the southeastern region of the United States: east and south of the Fall Line and east of the Mississippi River.

  • Ashton, R. E., Jr. and Franz, R. (1963). ''Bufo quercicus.'' Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, 222.1-222.2.
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endemic to a single nation

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Physical Description

Morphology

Anaxyrus quercicus is the smallest toad species in North America, ranging from 1.9 to 3.3 cm. It is so small that adults found in the wild were commonly classified as “half-grown” or “juvenile” southern toads (Bufo lentiginosus). They have a short head with a pointed nose and the short, flat body is black or brown in color (color can change with temperature) with a long dorsal stripe that may be white, cream, yellow, or orange. There are 4 to 5 pairs of dark blotches found on the back. The back is finely tuberculate, with the fine bumps (red, orange or reddish-brown in color) giving it a rough texture. The underside is grayish white and has no blotches, but is covered in tubercles. Oak toads have elongated, teardrop-shaped paratoid glands that extend down either side. These glands house a poisonous fluid used deter predators. Males can be distinguished by their dark, dusky colored throats.

Range length: 19 to 33 mm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; poisonous

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger; sexes shaped differently

  • Anonymous, 2004. "Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries" (On-line). Virginia Wildlife Information: Bufo Quercicus. Accessed October 20, 2005 at http://www.dgif.state.va.us/wildlife/species/display.asp?id=020063.
  • Dickerson, M. 1969. The Frog Book: north american toads and frogs, with a study of the habits and life histories of those of the northern states. Canada: General Publishing Company.
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Size

Length: 3 cm

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Ecology

Habitat

Oak toads are generally found in moist, grassy areas near pine or oak savannahs with sandy soil. They are also found in vernal pools and freshwater wetlands. They breed in shallow pools, ditches, and ponds.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial ; freshwater

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams; temporary pools

Wetlands: marsh

  • Knapp, W. 06/28/03. "The Frogs & Toads of Georgia" (On-line). Oak Toad- Bufo Quercicus. Accessed October 20, 2005 at http://wwknapp.home.mindspring.com/docs/oak.toad.html.
  • Wright, A. 1932. Life Histories of the Frogs of Okefinokee Swamp, Geeorgia: North American Salientia (Anura) No. 2. United States: Cornell University Press.
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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Sandy pine flatwoods and oak scrub; open pine and pine-oak woods; pine or oak savannahs with sandy soils; maritime forests. Occurs on some barrier islands in South Carolina. Seems to favour open-canopied pine flatwoods with grassy ground cover. When inactive, burrows underground or hides under surface objects. Eggs and larvae develop in rain pools, ditches, cypress and flatwoods ponds, and other flooded areas.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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Comments: Sandy pine flatwoods and oak scrub; open pine and pine-oak woods; pine or oak savannas with sandy soils; maritime forests. Occurs on some barrier islands in South Carolina. Seems to favor open-canopied pine flatwoods with grassy ground cover. When inactive, burrows underground or hides under surface objects. Eggs and larvae develop in rain pools, ditches, cypress and flatwoods ponds, and other flooded areas.

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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Migrates between breeding pools and nonbreeding terrestrial habitats.

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Trophic Strategy

Oak toads are predaceous and feed primarily on terrestrial insects and other small arthropods.

Animal Foods: insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore , Eats non-insect arthropods)

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Comments: Metamorphosed toads eat a variety of small terrestrial invertebrates such as ants and beetles. Larvae eat organic debris, algae, and plant tissue.

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Associations

Although smaller than other toads, the Oak Toad still plays a crucial role in insect population control.

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The primary predators of oak toads are snakes, particularly hognosed snakes (Heterodon platirhinos), specialized for eating toads. Other predators of oak toads are garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) and gopher frogs (Lithobates capito).

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Population Biology

Global Abundance

100,000 - 1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but likely exceeds 100,000.

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General Ecology

In Florida, density was estimated at 2/100 sq m (Hamilton 1955).

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Male oak toads make a high-pitched, bird-like chirping calls to attract females. Oak toads perceive their environment through visual, auditory, tactile, and chemical senses.

Communication Channels: acoustic

Other Communication Modes: choruses

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Cyclicity

Comments: Most active during the breeding period. More diurnal than most toads. Primarily diurnal except when breeding (Mitchell 1991).

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Life Cycle

In the span of two months, tadpoles hatch from their eggs and go through metamorphosis, becoming adult toads. Tadpoles have a grayish olive or grape green color to the body due to close set dots against a black background. The underside has a pale purplish color. the tail has 6-7 black saddles (coloration that wraps around the tail to a degree). Juvenile toads remain near the natal pond for a few days before moving to land, where they will spend the majority of their time.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Life Expectancy

Oak toad lifespans are not well known.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
1.9 years.

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Reproduction

Males arrive before females at shallow, semi-permanent or temporary ponds, and roadside drainage ditches. At breeding ponds males establish territories and begin calling females with a high-pitched chirp. Approximately 100-250 eggs are laid at a time in long strings, held together by a gelatinous material, and either float or stick to surfaces. Fertilization takes place externally when the male frog releases his sperm in the vicinity of the eggs. In the case of a testicular malfunction, male oak toads have an ovary that will become functional, allowing them to breed as females.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Male and female oak toads form a pair when the male grabs onto the female from behind in a position referred to as amplexus. The male stays attached to the female until she releases her eggs into the water. The female emits several eggs and then the male releases sperm into the water. The female will continue to release eggs. The eggs are released in bars containing 4-6 eggs apiece. Each female will lay about 700 eggs in total in a single season. These eggs will hatch within 3 to 3.5 days and develop into adult oak toads within 2 months.

Breeding interval: Oak toads are seasonal breeders and breeds once per year.

Breeding season: Oak toads breed from April to September or October. The mating season often begins with the arrival of warmer temperatures and thunderstorms. The interval of ovulation is approximately late May-mid August.

Average number of offspring: 700.

Range time to hatching: 72 to 80 hours.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (External ); oviparous

The extent of female energy investment is great during the ovulation and mating periods, as many females are found dead during these periods due to either the rigors of pair formation or energy investment in the laying of eggs. Once the eggs are fertilized and attached to a surface, there is no further parental care.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; pre-fertilization (Provisioning)

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Lays clutch of several hundred eggs, in small strands, April-October, usually coincident with heavy rains. Larval period lasts about 2 months.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Anaxyrus quercicus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Oak toad populations are declining throughout many states. In Virginia it is listed as a species of special concern (one that is not yet threatened but is expected to be in the near future). Also, in North Carolina, it is on the watch list for species that may be facing problems in the near future. A possible cause for decreases in oak toad populations is the clearing of the savannah forest habitats they prefer.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2004

Assessor/s
Geoffrey Hammerson

Reviewer/s
Global Amphibian Assessment Coordinating Team (Simon Stuart, Janice Chanson, Neil Cox and Bruce Young)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, tolerance of a degree of habitat modification, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Apparently secure in much of the historical range in the southeastern United States; however, the species has declined locally as a result of drainage of wetlands, forest management practices, and urbanization.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Moderate. Generalist or community with some key requirements scarce.

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Population

Population
It is widespread and common. In Florida, seemingly less common than historically, but the species remains common to abundant in many areas (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999).

Population Trend
Stable
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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 30%

Comments: In Florida, seemingly less common than historically, but the species remains common to abundant in many areas (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999).

Global Long Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 50%

Comments: Likely relatively stable in extent of occurrence, unknown level of decline in population size, area of occurrence, and number/condition of occurrences.

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Threats

Major Threats
Does not appear to thrive in urban and suburban areas but might remain common in agricultural areas (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999). In some areas, threatened by conversion of habitat to dense monocultures of loblolly pine and by continued draining of surface waters in remaining stands of pine savannah and pine-oak (Mitchell 1991).
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Degree of Threat: Medium

Comments: Does not appear to thrive in urban and suburban areas but may remain common in agricultural areas (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999). In some areas, threatened by conversion of habitat to dense monocultures of loblolly pine and by continued draining of surface waters in remaining stands of pine savanna and pine-oak (Mitchell 1991).

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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Habitat protection and monitoring needed.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

There are no known negative impacts of oak toads on humans.

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Oak toads help control population levels of insects and other small arthropods.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Wikipedia

Oak toad

The oak toad (Anaxyrus quercicus) is a species of toad in the family Bufonidae. It is endemic to the coastal regions of southeastern United States.[1] It is regarded as the smallest species of toad in North America, with a length of 19 to 33 mm (0.75 to 1.30 in).[1]

Description[edit]

The oak toad can be identified by its light mid-dorsal stripe, variable brown and black spots, and proportionally large parotoid glands. One of the most remarkable features of this species is its small adult size relative to other toads.

Adult male (left), female (right). Note the sharply contrasted ventral surface, the vocal sac on the male's throat, and the female's larger size.

The male can be distinguished from the female by its clear white belly and a slightly distended, loose flap of skin beneath the mouth, which expands into the vocal sac. The female has a dark-spotted belly and lacks a vocal sac.

Habitat and distribution[edit]

The oak toad's natural habitat includes temperate forests and shrubland, intermittent freshwater lakes and marshes, arable and irrigated land, pastureland, ponds, canals, and ditches.

The toad's range extends across the coastal plains of the southeastern United States from eastern Louisiana to southeast Virginia and south throughout Florida.[2]

Behavior[edit]

The oak toad eats mainly small insects and other arthropods. The adult has a strong preference for ants.[3]

It is mostly diurnal and spends much of its time burrowed into the loose soil of its habitat. It may remain in its burrow during the winter, often in hibernation.[3]

Breeding takes place in shallow pools that accumulate during heavy rains. The male expands his distinctive elongated vocal sac to produce a chirping call. The breeding season extends from April to October, peaking early on.[4][5] Heavy, warm spring rains stimulate mating behavior.[6]

Oak toad tadpole

An average of 300-500 eggs are laid in short strands of 3 to 8 eggs each, with each egg about a millimeter wide.[3] The strands are attached to vegetation, usually submerged blades of grass 4 to 12 cm (1.6 to 4.7 in) beneath the surface.[7][8] Energy investment in producing this quantity of eggs is significant, and many females are found dead during the mating season due to the rigors of the process. Fertilization takes place externally, with sperm being released in the vicinity of the eggs. As with other species of toad, the male oak toad has a Bidder's organ, which can become a functional ovary in the event of testicular malfunction.[9][10]

Life cycle[edit]

Eggs develop quickly, hatching in a mere 24 to 36 hours..[3] The tadpole reaches a maximum length of 18 to 19.4 mm (0.71 to 0.76 in). It is grayish olive or grape-green dorsally and purplish ventrally. The tail has 6 or 7 black saddle marks..[9][10] The tadpole completes metamorphosis into a juvenile toadlet in 4 to 6 weeks, and it reaches adulthood and sexual maturity at 1.5 to 2.3 years of age.[3]

The length of the lifespan is unclear.[1] There are records of specimens living for four years in captivity,[7][9] and the reported average lifespan in captivity is 1.9 years.[11]

Predation[edit]

The primary predators of the oak toad are snakes, particularly hognosed snakes, which are specialized for eating toads. Other predators include garter snakes and gopher frogs.[9][12]

As with many bufonids, the oak toad inflates its body in unkenreflex when confronted by a potential predator. It secretes toxins from its parotoid glands and urinates when threatened. The male may chirp as a response to predators. Eggs also appear to have some toxic properties.[3]

Size comparison. Adult male (left), female (right).
Smallest toad species in North America.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Retrieved on 21 October 2008.
  2. ^ Oak Toad, Bufo quercicus. USGS, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, Checklist of Amphibian Species and Identification Guide. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Lannoo, M. Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species. University of California Press. 2000. 432-33.
  4. ^ Harper, F. 1931. A dweller in the piney woods. Science Monthly 32 176–81.
  5. ^ Einem, G. E. and L. D. Ober. 1956. The seasonal behavior of certain Floridian Salientia. Herpetologica 12 205–12.
  6. ^ Wright, A. H. and A. A. Wright. 1949. Handbook of Frogs and Toads of the United States and Canada. Third edition. Comstock Publishing Associates, Ithaca, New York.
  7. ^ a b Ashton, R. E., Jr. and P. S. Ashton. 1988. Handbook of Reptiles and Amphibians of Florida: Part Three: The Amphibians. Windward Publishing, Miami, Florida.
  8. ^ Hamilton, W. J. 1955. Notes on the ecology of the oak toad in Florida. Herpetologica 11 205–10.
  9. ^ a b c d Wright, A. 1932. Life Histories of the Frogs of Okefinokee Swamp, Georgia: North American Salientia (Anura) No. 2. United States: Cornell University Press.
  10. ^ a b Bufo quercicus. Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries. 2004. Retrieved on 20 October 2005.
  11. ^ Bowler, J. K., 1975. Longevity of reptiles and amphibians in N. American collections as of 1 November 1975. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Miscellaneous Publications, Herpetological Circular 6 1-32.
  12. ^ Behler, J. 1979. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles & Amphibians. New York: Chanticleer Press, Inc.
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