The Bufo toad (Bufo marinus) — also known as the marine toad, giant toad, and cane toad — is a huge brown to grayish-brown toad with a creamy yellow belly and deeply-pitted parotoid glands extending down the back. Adult giant toads generally range from 6 to 9 inches (15 to 23 cm) but can grow even larger. It is a relatively long-lived toad, reaching ages up to ten years. “Bufo” is the Latin word for “toad,” so it’s somewhat redundant to refer to them as “Bufo toads.”
The Bufo sits in an upright position when it moves. It moves in short, fast hops. When confronted by a predator, it can “shoot” Bufo toxin from the parotoid and other glands on the back in the form of white viscous venom. The parotoid glands sit just behind the eyes and appear wart-like. The secretions are highly toxic to dogs, cats, and other animals and can cause skin irritation in humans.
Bufos in Florida
It is believed that Bufos were introduced to Florida to control pests on sugar cane farms (thus their other name of “cane toad”) some time in the 1930s or ’40s. In the following decades, some cane toads escaped while being imported, thus leading to Florida’s current population.
Because it is not native to Florida, it is considered an invasive species and so are not protected, except by anti-cruelty law.
Southern Toad vs. Bufo Toad
The Southern toad — which is native to Florida and so is considered beneficial to the environment — is often confused with the Bufo, but they have distinct characteristics:
- The Bufo has very large parotoid glands compared to the smaller, kidney-shaped glands of the Southern toad.
- The substance secreted by the Southern toad may be irritating to mucous membranes but is not toxic.
- The Southern toad has two ridges on its head that end in knobs; the Bufos do not have these.
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