Cane toad

Cane toad

Giant neotropical toad, Marine toad

Rhinella marina
g oz 
mm inch 

The cane toad (Rhinella marina ), also known as the giant neotropical toad or marine toad, is a large, terrestrial true toad native to South and mainland Central America, but which has been introduced to various islands throughout Oceania and the Caribbean, as well as Northern Australia. It is a member of the genus Rhinella, which includes many true toad species found throughout Central and South America, but it was formerly assigned to the genus Bufo.

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The cane toad is an old species. A fossil toad (specimen UCMP 41159) from the La Venta fauna of the late Miocene in Colombia is indistinguishable from modern cane toads from northern South America. It was discovered in a floodplain deposit, which suggests the R. marina habitat preferences have long been for open areas. The cane toad is a prolific breeder; females lay single-clump spawns with thousands of eggs. Its reproductive success is partly because of opportunistic feeding: it has a diet, unusual among anurans, of both dead and living matter. Adults average 10–15 cm (4–6 in) in length; the largest recorded specimen had a snout-vent length of 24 cm (9.4 in).

The cane toad has poison glands, and the tadpoles are highly toxic to most animals if ingested. Its toxic skin can kill many animals, both wild and domesticated, and cane toads are particularly dangerous to dogs. Because of its voracious appetite, the cane toad has been introduced to many regions of the Pacific and the Caribbean islands as a method of agricultural pest control. The common name of the species is derived from its use against the cane beetle (Dermolepida albohirtum ), which damages sugar cane. The cane toad is now considered a pest and an invasive species in many of its introduced regions. The 1988 film Cane Toads: An Unnatural History documented the trials and tribulations of the introduction of cane toads in Australia.

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Not a migrant


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Considered the largest species in the Bufonidae, the cane toad is very large; the females are significantly longer than males, reaching a typical length of 10–15 cm (4–6 in), with a maximum of 24 cm (9.4 in). Larger toads tend to be found in areas of lower population density. They have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years in the wild, and can live considerably longer in captivity, with one specimen reportedly surviving for 35 years.

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The skin of the cane toad is dry and warty. Distinct ridges above the eyes run down the snout. Individual cane toads can be grey, yellowish, red-brown, or olive-brown, with varying patterns. A large parotoid gland lies behind each eye. The ventral surface is cream-coloured and may have blotches in shades of black or brown. The pupils are horizontal and the irises golden. The toes have a fleshy webbing at their base, and the fingers are free of webbing.

Typically, juvenile cane toads have smooth, dark skin, although some specimens have a red wash. Juveniles lack the adults' large parotoid glands, so they are usually less poisonous. The tadpoles are small and uniformly black, and are bottom-dwellers, tending to form schools. Tadpoles range from 10 to 25 mm (0.4 to 1.0 in) in length.

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The cane toad is native to the Americas, and its range stretches from the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas to the central Amazon and southeastern Peru, and some of the continental islands near Venezuela (such as Trinidad and Tobago). This area encompasses both tropical and semiarid environments. The density of the cane toad is significantly lower within its native distribution than in places where it has been introduced. In South America, the density was recorded to be 20 adults per 100 m (109 yd) of shoreline, 1 to 2% of the density in Australia.

Cane toad habitat map

Climate zones

Cane toad habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

The common name "marine toad" and the scientific name Rhinella marina suggest a link to marine life, but cane toads do not live in the sea. However, laboratory experiments suggest that tadpoles can tolerate salt concentrations equivalent to 15% of seawater (~5.4‰), and recent field observations found living tadpoles and toadlets at salinities of 27.5‰ on Coiba Island, Panama. The cane toad inhabits open grassland and woodland, and has displayed a "distinct preference" for areas modified by humans, such as gardens and drainage ditches. In their native habitats, the toads can be found in subtropical forests, although dense foliage tends to limit their dispersal.

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The cane toad begins life as an egg, which is laid as part of long strings of jelly in water. A female lays 8,000–25,000 eggs at once and the strings can stretch up to 20 m (66 ft) in length. The black eggs are covered by a membrane and their diameter is about 1.7–2.0 mm (0.067–0.079 in). The rate at which an egg grows into a tadpole increases with temperature. Tadpoles typically hatch within 48 hours, but the period can vary from 14 hours to almost a week. This process usually involves thousands of tadpoles—which are small, black, and have short tails—forming into groups. Between 12 and 60 days are needed for the tadpoles to develop into juveniles, with four weeks being typical. Similarly to their adult counterparts, eggs and tadpoles are toxic to many animals.

When they emerge, toadlets typically are about 10–11 mm (0.39–0.43 in) in length, and grow rapidly. While the rate of growth varies by region, time of year, and gender, an average initial growth rate of 0.647 mm (0.0255 in) per day is seen, followed by an average rate of 0.373 mm (0.0147 in) per day. Growth typically slows once the toads reach sexual maturity. This rapid growth is important for their survival; in the period between metamorphosis and subadulthood, the young toads lose the toxicity that protected them as eggs and tadpoles, but have yet to fully develop the parotoid glands that produce bufotoxin. Only an estimated 0.5% of cane toads reach adulthood, in part because they lack this key defense - but also due to tadpole cannibalism. Although cannibalism does occur in the native population in South America, the rapid evolution occurring in the unnaturally large population in Australia has produced tadpoles 30x more likely to be interested in cannibalising their siblings, and 2.6x more likely to actually do so. They have also evolved to shorten their tadpole phase in response to the presence of older tadpoles. These changes are likely genetic, although no genetic basis has been determined.

As with rates of growth, the point at which the toads become sexually mature varies across different regions. In New Guinea, sexual maturity is reached by female toads with a snout–vent length between 70 and 80 mm (2.8 and 3.1 in), while toads in Panama achieve maturity when they are between 90 and 100 mm (3.5 and 3.9 in) in length. In tropical regions, such as their native habitats, breeding occurs throughout the year, but in subtropical areas, breeding occurs only during warmer periods that coincide with the onset of the wet season.

The cane toad is estimated to have a critical thermal maximum of 40–42 °C (104–108 °F) and a minimum of around 10–15 °C (50–59 °F). The ranges can change due to adaptation to the local environment. Cane toads from some populations can adjust their thermal tolerance within a few hours of encountering low temperatures. The toad is able to rapidly acclimate to the cold using physiological plasticity, though there is also evidence that more northerly populations of cane toads in the United States are better cold-adapted than more southerly populations. These adaptations have allowed the cane toad to establish invasive populations across the world. The toad’s ability to rapidly acclimate to thermal changes suggests that current models may underestimate the potential range of habitats that the toad can populate. The cane toad has a high tolerance to water loss; some can withstand a 52.6% loss of body water, allowing them to survive outside tropical environments.

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Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Most frogs identify prey by movement, and vision appears to be the primary method by which the cane toad detects prey; however, it can also locate food using its sense of smell. They eat a wide range of material; in addition to the normal prey of small rodents, other small mammals, reptiles, other amphibians, birds, and even bats and a range of invertebrates (such as ants, beetles, earwigs, dragonflies, grasshoppers, true bugs, crustaceans, and gastropods), they also eat plants, dog food, cat food, feces, and household refuse.

Mating Habits



Coloring Pages


1. Cane toad Wikipedia article -
2. Cane toad on The IUCN Red List site -

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