Depending on their specific species and geographic location, toads face a variety of predators in the quest for survival. These include snakes, raccoons, foxes, skunks, canines, raves, crows, owls, hawks and grackles -- which is a songbird of the American blackbird family. Various habitats and predators require different defensive mechanisms. Toads often use a variety of techniques to avoid becoming another critter's dinner.
The bodies of several toad species are covered with specialized glands that produce poisons toxic to predators. Called parotoid glands, these self-defense organs excrete a poisonous substance called bufotoxin that causes death in small animals and allergic reactions in humans. The glands make enough bufotoxin to cover certain toad species' entire bodies, making it impossible for predators touching them to avoid the substance.
Brown- and green-colored toads have natural camouflage that helps them blend in with their surroundings when they sense threat. Toads that are brightly colored most often are poisonous. To a predator, blue, orange, purple, red or yellow signifies danger. Colorful toads that aren't poisonous benefit from the faux warning signal to predators.
Making themselves appear too big for a predator to eat is another way toads protect themselves. They puff up by taking in extra air, forcing the enlargement of their vocal sacs on their necks. Frogs fill their vocal sacs with air when they are ready to sing. But in self-defense, toads do not release the air. By retaining the air in the vocal sac -- and in some species other parts of their bodies flexible enough to expand -- toads can make themselves look too big to menace.
It's one of nature's oldest tricks in the book, but playing dead remains an effective way for toads to evade being killed and consumed by predators. The American toad is especially adept at keeping himself statute-still when danger is present. Many predators thrive on the thrill of the kill and won't attempt to eat something that appears to be already dead.
The Venezuelan pebble toad stops, drops and rolls, but not to put out a fire. The measure is an effective defense mechanism for this amphibian. When he senses danger, this toad folds himself into a ball and rolls away from the threat. His coloring makes him look more like a rolling stone than a living creature in the position.
Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.