Sonoran Desert Toad — Not Cute!

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A few days ago I posted some images of a Couch’s Spadefoot Toad and I asked the rhetorical question: was it cute?  Rhetorical, in the sense that I knew my answer before asking the question.

Today’s toad is a different story.  No one calls the Sonoran Desert Toad cute.

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It’s huge, it’s lumpy, and it secretes a toxic substance from its parotid glands (those kidney-shaped glands just behind its eyes) and from glands on its thighs that has been known to kill domestic pets.

But, even if unlovely, it is deserving of considerable respect.  This is a highly successful species, one that has adapted amazingly well to living in the desert.  Sonoran Desert toads, like all desert amphibians, are invisible nearly all year long. Most of the year they are dormant in burrows or in crevices.  But, with the summer rains they emerge in huge numbers, at night, to forage and to make love.  Like all amphibians, Sonoran Desert Toads need water in which to breed and reproduce.  In Sabino Canyon they mate and lay their eggs in Sabino Creek, and after a couple of nights of love-making their tadpoles are everywhere.

But, when it comes to foraging, these toads are wanderers supreme.  On some nights, especially after an afternoon thunderstorm,  dozens of them will show up at the canyon’s visitors’ center, nearly a mile from Sabino Creek and they’ll be scattered throughout the desert in between the creek and the visitors’ center.  One night last summer, as I left the canyon after an evening hike, I noticed many of them hopping around the parking area.

You know, the more I look at this one’s image, the less ugly it appears.  Check out those beautiful eyes!

Image made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180mm Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, M setting, ISO 160, f14 @ 1/125.

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