For the past two years I’ve heard Eastern Narrowmouth Toads (Gastrophryne carolinensis) calling from in and around the Wetlands. I’ve even heard them call from the area surrounding the small U-shaped pond in Catch the Wind but had not been able to actually see one of the tiny toads. Sure, each year I do happen to see one of their 10 mm sized young hopping away from the pond after metamorphosing from tadpole to toad, but had not seen an adult, until now.
Thanks to one of the kids in Summer Camp here at the Museum, who, in his search for insects next to the Wetlands, spotted and captured one of these 1.25 inch (about 30 mm) amphibians. The kids thought the toad a frog and were very excited when I happened along and told them that it was in fact a toad, at least in name.
Both the common and scientific names of this secretive amphibian contain the word toad. Eastern Narrowmouth Toad refers to the facts that it lives in the east and has a narrow, pointed head and mouth. The Latinized Gastrophryne carolinensis means belly toad of Carolina (gastro=belly, phryne=toad, carolinensis=you guessed it, of Carolina).
These little toads are not true toads like the American Toad or Fowler’s Toad but belong to a wide ranging family of frogs known as Microhylidae which suggest that they are small treefrogs (micro=small, hyla=tree). However, they spend most of their time in burrows, under logs, or in the leaf litter.
Narrowmouth toads eat ants, among other small insects. The toads secrete a toxic substance from their skin which may help protect them from the bites of their prey. This secretion may also irritate your skin and eyes if you’re not careful in handling these toads, so wash your hands after picking one up, that is if you’re lucky enough to see one.