Perhaps the Eastern narrowmouth toad, Gastrophryne carolinensis, is an apt species to introduce to Floridensis on the heels of the Thanksgiving holiday. It is, after all, a remarkably plump, little amphibian. I don’t know about you, but I too feel a bit plumper than usual. it was a good Thanksgiving.
When thinking of frogs and toads, people tend to think of any given species as being either a toad –or– a frog, as if that’s an either-or binary. In reality, Order Anura (within Class Amphibia) features a number of related-yet-distinct families. Family Bufonidae, for example, consists of the “true toads” you probably already know about and have seen. Family Hylidae consists of the “tree frogs,” and Family Ranidae consists of the “true frogs.” There are plenty more. This species, the Eastern narrowmouth toad, is a representative of a distinct family, Family Microhylidae. Despite its common name, the Eastern narrowmouth is not a “true toad.” So what is it? It’s a narrowmouth!
Eastern narrowmouths are small, bulbous, terrestrial amphibians that spend much of their time buried somewhat within loose soil or under surface matter. They come out and are a bit more active at night and after nice, sustained rains. Though not as slick and smooth as most frogs, they also do not have the dry, warty skin so commonly exhibited by their “true toad” brethren. They are truly in a family of their own.
In these photos, you can get a sense of the Eastern narrowmouth’s ridiculously tiny head and mouth. Seriously, this species packs quite a girth at the hip — especially when contrasted with its relatively tiny head. In short, they’re adorable, but also quite good at doing what they need to do: hunt for ants, termites, and other small arthropods in loose soil. It’s always a delight to come across an Eastern narrowmouth (usually hidden beneath a fallen log or under a sheet of wood in the forest).