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Schismaderma carens (Smith 1848)

Brief Summary

Comprehensive Description


    Distribution and Habitat
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    Schismaderma carens is widely distributed throughout Central and Southeast Africa. The northern-most parts of its range cover northwestern Tanzania and Olorgesailie in southern Kenya. The species occurs down through southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, eastern Angola, and Western Zambia, and also reaches southeastern Botswana, southern Mozambique, Swaziland, Malawi, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Although it has not been recorded in Lesotho, it also possibly occurs there (Poynton et al. 2004).

    The Red Toad tolerates a broad range of habitats, but occurs primarily in grassland and wooded savannah. It also occurs on livestock ranches, around human settlements, and on agricultural land. This species is terrestrial and breeds in freshwater. Its breeding grounds are usually bodies of deep, still water, including dirty water (Poynton et al. 2004).


    Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
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    Although the Red Toad is common, it is much easier to find when it is breeding (Poynton et al. 2004). Calling occurs predominantly in the midsummer, and the males call while floating in the shallow water to advertise themselves to females (Channing and Howell 2006). The call sounds like a loud, long whoop, with a duration of 0.9-1.2 seconds and dominant harmonics between 0.1 and 0.8 kHz. Calls are made during the day.

    After heavy rainfall, the toad breeds during the day in deep muddy water. Males reach the breeding grounds, among the younger vegetation in the deep water, before the females. Dense spacing is the norm, with males separated by as little as 300 mm from each other. The males proceed to call and chase each other, while actively trying to mate with other frogs. Females then enter the area in response to the calls. The eggs are laid in a double string during amplexus while the pair moves slowly in the water, producing rows of egg strings. Eggs may be attached to vegetation, and females leave shortly after laying their eggs. The clutch size is 2500, with each egg 1.6-2.5 mm in diameter. Since myriad toads lay their eggs at similar times, the waters may be filled with upwards of tens of thousands of eggs at a time. The period of development from egg to toadlet ranges from 37 to 52 days.

    The Red Toad has gregarious tadpoles, sometimes found in mixed swarms with tadpoles of the African bullfrog Pyxicephalus adspersus. These tadpoles are unique morphologically due to a horseshoe-shaped flap of skin on the head (Channing 2001; Channing and Howell 2006).

    The adult molts at 4 day intervals (Channing and Howell 2006).


    Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
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    The Red Toad is a fairly abundant and widespread species that is not currently threatened. The tadpoles may be preyed upon by dragonfly nymphs, helmeted terrapins (Pelomedusa subrufa), the hammerkop (Scopus umbretta), and hinged terrapins (genus Pelusios). The savanna vine snake Thelotornis capensis eats juvenile Red Toads, while the white-lipped snake Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia and the eagle owl Bubo lateus consume adult toads (Channing and Howell 2006).


    Relation to Humans
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    The Red Toad often lives in very close proximity to humans.