[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][text_output]From East to West, North to South—well, more so East and North than the others—North America’s home to an iconoclastic amphibian. Any youth who grew-up in its home range would be able to pick it out from a criminal-like lineup, no doubt; it’s, for many, the first encounter they’ll have with a warty anuran. I was such a case, if memory suits me well. At this point, I could only be describing one particular North American toad: the American toad (Anaxyrus americanus)
Red, White, And Blue—Or Just Shades Of Brown, Really
American toads are endemic to the—as I alluded to earlier—most of the eastern-half of the United States, climbing upwards toward the same geographical niche in Canada. Relatively diminutive in size, these fairly monochromic (only dressed in various hues of brown) rarely reach lengths over three-inches and, generally speaking, aren’t ones to tip the standard or metric scales; no subspecies of american toads will ever top more than a few ounces. But what they lack in sheer mass, they more than makeup for in savvy means of reproduction.
Laid in strings (each strung together by thousands of unfertilized eggs) by a courting female, she’ll garner the attention of a vocalizing male to externally fertilize her translucent brood in a fairly quick, but efficient, amplexing embrace. Should the male be “generous” with his gametic gifts, hundreds-and-hundreds of small black, “clever” tadpoles will populate that same shall pool of water within a few days.
Exactly why did I decide to put clever in quotation marks, you might ask? Well, as it turns out, they’re just that—masters of evolutions symbiosis. Aside from their affinity for gathering in thick vegetation (evading the wandering eyes of countless of both aquatic and above-water predators), American toads also appear to have synonymized Chlorogonium with rapid growth rates; increased growth have been documented time-and-time again by tadpoles when living alongside Chlorogonium. Talk about the benefits of quote, “eating your greens,” right? Popeye would be proud.
A Genetic Melting Pot
Much like the country their named after, American toads can’t exactly check-mark anyone census fill-in-the-blank. They’re, after all, a toad of three documented subspecies. While the east American toad (Anaxyrus a. americanus) is totted as the species dominant subspecies, both the dwarf American toad (A. a. charlesmithi) and incredible rare Hudson Bay (A. a. copei) find themselves under a spectated star-spangled banner. However prolific the eastern variety may be, the other two subspecies aren’t nearly as abundant—especially the Hudson Bay toad.
North America’s a beacon for amphibious life found nowhere else on the planet—regardless of cardinal affiliation. But what notion should ring clear: they’re canaries in the proverbial land minds. And those mines, our streams and creeks may become too blanketed by our industrial soot for these creatures to flourish. Let’s all do our part, make responsible, eco-friendly decisions. Embrace, nurture biodiversity. Because every nine-year-old growing-up in the Eastern part of the continent should have the opportunity to experience this anuran.
By Matt Charnock[/text_output][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][text_output]Above: American toads (Anaxyrus americanus) are a small-to-medium sized anuran commonly found in the eastern part of North America. Photo: Brian Gratwicke/Flickr.
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