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Bufo vulgaris Bufo bufo
The word derived from "buffare", to puff, and in 1658 Edward Topsel, referring to the toad state that the Latins called it Bufo "...because it swelleth when it is angry".
Puff (n): buffo, soffio, pubblicità enfatizzante; (vt) gonfiare, fare una pubblicità esagerata a; (vi) sbuffare, soffiare.
Cinereus, Common Toad.
Bufo vulgaris, Bufonis saliva.
Poisonous venom from the dorsal glands.
Animalia; Chordata / Vertebrata - Vertebrates; Amphibia - Amphibians; Anura - Frogs; Bufonidae - Toads
Proved by Carl Hencke of Germany. Allen's Encyclop. Mat. Med. Vol. II. 303.
Description of the substance
The live animal is fastened to a slab of cork by four strong pins stuck through the webs of the feet. The poles of an induction apparatus in action are slowly drawn over the back of the animal, whereupon the poison very soon issues from the dorsal glands. This is removed with small horn knife, and triturated.
Habitat: This well - known animal is a native of North America, Europe Southern Asia, and Japan.
Bufo bufo, or Bufo vulgaris, is a member of the family of Bufonidae and in Great Britain is known as the Common Toad. Rana temporaria, our Common Frog, is a member of the Ranidae, and together they represent the order of British Tailless Amphibia known as Batrachia or Anura.
The class of Amphibia consists of those cold–blooded vertebrates which, during part of their existence, possess both gills and lungs and are therefore adapted to aquatic and terrestrial life. Anatomically they come midway between fishes and reptiles. Arising from fishes, Amphibia assumed an extremely important place in evolution for, after metamorphosis, they were the first vertebrates to invade the land, and led to those reptiles and animals equipped for completely terrestrial life. It has been considered that a greater gulf exists between fish and Amphibia than between Amphibia and men.
The Common Toad has a broad, bulky, neckless body with a humped back and a swollen belly; its upper parts being brownish in colour and its underparts yellowish or grey. It is distinguished from the Common Frog by its duller colouring, shorter limbs, incompletely webbed toes and absence of teeth; and whereas Rana temporaria has a smooth and slimy skin, that of Bufo bufo is thick, tough, relatively dry and covered with wart–like tubercles.
Batrachians have large, prominent and beautiful eyes which are protected by three lids. The upper lid is narrow, thick and an extension of the body skin; the lower lid is rudimentary and fixed; while the third, a nictitating lid, is attacked to the lower one and folded inside it when not in use. The third, movable eyelid is transparent and it covers the eye when the animal is underwater, providing protection without imparing its vision. Toads and frogs can only close their eyes by withdrawing the eyeballs into the head.
The tongue of the Common Toad is thick, flat, covered with papillae and pale pink in colour. Its anterior portion is fixed to the front of the mouth while the posterior part is free, and the free extremity is rounded, unlike that of the Common Frog which is forked.
Having no ribs, Batrachians cannot breathe by expanding the chest and sucking air into the lungs as reptiles and mammals do, they can only breathe with their mouths tightly closed, and air entering the mouth through the nostril is forced down the glottis into the lungs by the intermittent lowering of the throat and contraction of its muscles. This action can be observed in a pulsation of the throat which in Common Toads and Frogs varies from ninety to one–hundred–and fifty beats to the minute and thus the throat appears to be in a state of perpetual motion.
The skin plays an exceptionally important part in the life of Batrachians. It is an auxiliary respiratory organ and experiments have shown that respiration through the lungs alone is not sufficient to support their life on land for long, while during periods spent under water or buried in mud, their breathing is carried on entirely through the skin. They do not drink though the mouth but through the integument and, although Bufo stands desiccation better than Rana, it absorbs water almost as readily, for both carry a reserve supply of liquid which they will eject if roughly handled. So long as the skin is moist, blood vessels in the dermis can extract the oxygen from the air, but if the skin dries it becomes impervious to the air and they soon suffocate.
The glands of the skin of Batrachians are of two types, namely, mucous and glandular. It is those mucous, or slime, glands widely spread all over the body that secrete the clear fluid which keeps the skin sufficiently moist and supple to allow cutaneous respiration. Bufo bufo appears to emit though the whole surface of its body a poisonous, alkaline sweat which numbs, paralyses and stops the heartbeat of certain animals or birds coming into contact with it. The granular glands secrete an antiseptic fluid which, continually rising to the surface, keeps the skin free from germs, and in the Common Toad this fluid is highly poisonous. The parotoid gland, and the large dorsal warts and tubercles on Bufo secrete a thick, white, acid fluid with an aromatic smell, which contains two toxic substances known as bufotalin or bufogin.
The function of the granular poison of the Common Toad is to guard it against its enemies; and although it can be squirted to some distance by pressure, the animal only exudes it under considerable stimulation. If seized by a dog and in acute pain, the milky poison will be discharged in quantity all over the toad's body and the dog will quickly drop the toad in considerable distress, foaming at the mouth. Inflammation may be set up in the dog, accompanied by fever and convulsions, which may last for twenty–four hours. The granular secretion is poisonous to plants and invertebrates but death only results in mammals if, under laboratory conditions, large doses of these poisons, which act on the heart and central nervous system, are injected into the stomach, and in such circumstances cessation of the heartbeats will be preceded by sickness, convulsions, weakening of respiration, drowsiness and muscular paralysis. The Common Toad is insusceptible to its own poisons and to those of other animals.
The skin of Batrachians is loose–fitting, attached as it is to the muscles at a few places only, for elsewhere lymphatic sacs intervene. Amphibia shed the thin, transparent layers of the epidermis. The exact frequency of this occurrence is unknown but it appears to vary between once a month and four times a year, and to be under hormonal control; although sloughing is influenced by such factors as age, food, health, and environment. All species of Bufo have a thin line extending down the middle of the back and it is on this median raphe that the skin splits. In the Common Toad, shedding, which is preceded by the free flow of secretion from the mucous glands, takes place simultaneously on all parts of the body. The animal first distends itself, humping its back so that the skin splits down the median raphe and slides off each side. It then, by contorting its body and scraping its limbs, detached the skin from its legs, arms and head till the operation is completed and a shining, sticky, new skin is revealed. The skin is usually cast in darkness, the process taking an hour or more, and Bufo eats it slough, sucking it in as two black cords.
Amphibia have the ability to change the colour of their skin, thus enabling them to escape detection against different backgrounds. The natural colouring of Bufo bufo blends with the soil of its surroundings, for on a white ground it becomes lighter in tone and on a black surface, darker. There are, however factors which bring about a change in the colour of the skin irrespective of environment. Emotions such as fear or anger can make it lose colour; dryness, light, and warmth will induce light colour, and moisture, darkness, and cold, dark colour. Toads late in hibernating and caught by sudden frost can turn almost black.
The Common Toad has been said to have paroptic sight and to some extent to see with its skin, for a blinded toad will make for light, providing it is not too strong, and the sensation felt in its skin does not appear only to be of warmth.
In Batrachians the generative, intestinal and urinary canals all discharge into the cloaca, the animal possessing neither penis nor vagina. In the male, spermatozoa are produced in the testes and pass out through the kidneys and ureters; while in the female, ova pass out from the ovaries, through oviducts where, from special glands, they receive their gelatinous covering. Hundreds of eggs are produced during the breeding season and can almost fill the lower body cavity of the female.
Found only in Bufonidae is a structure known as Bidders Organ which is present in both sexes and which, in the male, produces hermaphroditism. In the male toad the mature functional sexual gland is preceded by a non–functional gland which assumes female form, and thus every male toad begins as a female, changing its sex when the masculine factors have overcome the feminine. The rudimentary gland known as Bidders Organ degenerates and a minute non–functional ovary, the development of which is inhibited by the testicles. If a young male toad is castrated, Bidders Organ begins to develop and within a year or so he will be capable of evacuating the large, ripe, fertilizable eggs which will have filled the ovaries. Through the coupling of feminized males with normal male toads, offspring have been obtained which are literally the children of two fathers, for the spawning toad is still a male so far as its chromosomes are concerned. In the female toad the rudimentary sexual gland assumes the same sex as the mature gland and Bidders Organ appears to be more atrophied than in the male. If a young female is sterilized she may eventually ovulate from Bidders Organ instead of from her natural ovaries.
The life of the Common Toad is far more terrestrial than that of Rana temporaria for it repairs to water only for a short breeding period. It lives a solitary, retiring, sedentary life and, preferring dampness to wet surroundings, makes its home in holes in walls, beneath stones or in a shady place among herbage and, in soft earth, it will often bury itself completely, leaving a hole from which to keep watch on the world outside. It will go out during the day time only in heavy rain for, a nocturnal hunter, the toad normally lies hidden till sunset. It may then travel considerable distances in search of food and, since it has a well developed sense of orientation and a strong homing instinct, it usually returns to the sam spot after its hunger has been satisfied.
Bufo bufo, whose meals consist of insects and their larvae, worms, caterpillars and molluscs, appears to have an insatiable appetite and, unlike the Common Frog, to have no sense of repletion. It has no sense of smell, and prey that does not move will not be taken. Moving objects are intently scrutinized by the toad and patiently stalked till it has reached effective range which is about two inches away. After a few moments of stillness, there will be a sudden forward jerk of its body, a rapid flick of its pink, sticky tongue out and over the object with an audible click as the insect disappears, and Bufo may then gulp, blink and wipe the side of its mouth with its forelegs.
The greed of the Common Toad is of great service to gardeners. It is the most intelligent of all European Amphibia and easily tamable, unlike Rana who remains very shy and unresponsive to human beings. Toads are fames for their longevity and may live forty years or more. Their natural enemies are snakes, rats, hedgehogs, stoats, certain birds or prey, and Lucilia bufonivora, the terrible toad–eating greenbottle, whose larvae attack its nasal cavities causing death through suffocation, and soon completely destroy its whole body.
Unlike the Common Frog, Bufo bufo does not jump or hop much, for its shorter limbs necessitate its walking rather clumsily, dragging its body along the ground. However, not only does it walk great distances but it is a good if laborious climber, showing extraordinary tenacity and perseverance in overcoming obstacles. It swims well, burrows into the earth, and Bufo calamita, the Natterjack, runs.
Whereas Rana temporaria is able to escape from its enemies by taking huge leaps into concealment, Bufo has to rely largely on its protective colouring and on the venom secreted in its skin. It has, however, one further form of defence. When frightened the Common Toad assumes what is known as the butting attitude and this consists of its inflating the lungs, blowing itself out to the full extent which may increase its normal size by as much as 50 per cent. At the same time it raises its body from the ground, extending the back legs, lowering the head, withdrawing the eyes into the skull, and tilting towards the side from which it expects attack. The purpose of this curious performance is to present to the enemy the largest possible body surface in the hope that it will consider the toad too large to swallow and thus lose interest. Bombinator igneus, the German Unke, or Fire–bellied toad, will, when alarmed, turn on its back, throwing up its hands and feet, thus intimidating the enemy by exposing its brilliant underside.
Bufo bufo spends six months of every year in hibernation. Sometime in October it will disappear into its winter quarters which will not be in mud at the bottom of a pond like those of Rana temporaria, but probably in the disused burrow of some mammal, in a cellar or under the floor of an outhouse, far away from the water; or it may just dig a hole and bury itself beneath a foot or so of earth. Before retiring the Common Toad will eat its fill, but once it has withdrawn it will fast. The animal does not become completely unconscious during hibernation but its respiration is weak, digestion at a standstill and if touched its reactions are much delayed.
When spring arrives Bufo emerges from its long stupor. During hibernation the male's testicles have enlarged and become crammed with semen; the female's ovaries have become vast, and, although the animals are starving, they do not wait to eat for their overriding impulse is for reproduction. The female will not ovulate if kept on dry land for water is required to complete the development of her eggs. Previously solitary and terrestrial, the toad now sets off for the breeding ground where it will become gregarious and aquatic.
Bufo bufo breeds a few weeks later than Rana temporaria and all sexually mature toads of a district migrate from their winter quarters to their breeding ground within a few days of one another, many hundreds often taking part of the movement. One particular pond is selected and the same returned to year after year, while other waters, apparently identical and closer at hand, are bypassed. Once the urge to seek the water has seized the toads, they travel continuously day and night, laboriously surmounting such obstacles as wall that lie in their path. Their instinct for self–preservation, which at other times keeps them in hiding during day time, deserts them and thus many are killed during the migration.
The first toads at the breeding place are usually single males, though the animals sometimes arrive already paired, for if a male meets a female en route he will immediately mount her back and will be carried by her to the pond. When they enter the pond to spawn they will at once absorb water and increase considerably in weight. Although toads and frogs may share the same pond they do not mix, for toads choose deep waters for spawning while frogs prefer the shallows.
Common Toads do not indulge in courtship or preliminaries in mating the the male appears to have no preference for any particular female, but jumps on the back of the first one he meets, grasping her firmly round the body and digging his hands into her armpits. During the breeding season he develops nuptial pads, or excrescences, consisting of black epidermal spines, on the inner three fingers, which enable him to clasp more firmly and which are shed when breeding is over. Fighting for females is vigorous and a male toad, once coupled with a female, will not relax his hold however badly he is treated. There are usually many more males than females on the breeding ground and superfluous males attack the couples. Although the male in possession is never unseated, others will clasp unprotested parts of the female's body and she may become covered with male toads who completely conceal her, hanging from her trunk, head, arms and legs. The female will suffocate under such a multiple embrace and clusters of toads are often found clasping a corpse. The Common Frog does not form clusters of this kind.
Whereas the belly of the female Rana temporaria becomes covered with rough, pearly granules during the mating season, Bufo bufo has no means of sex discrimination other than trial and error. When a male toad clasps another, if the second one struggles and emits a chirping note of warning, it is a sign that it is a male and will be discarded, whereas if it is mute and acquiescent, he recognizes it as female and clings to her, maintaining his hold for several days until spawning has taken place. In their frenzied ardour toads and frogs will clutch at fish, Tritons or even sticks and the clasping reflex brought into play at this time, with is of extraordinary strength, will continue even after mutilation.
Bufo fasts during the pairing season and if offered food seems frightened of it. Fertilization is external and copulation only simulated, the pairs swimming about in amplexus until after contractions have started in the female's belly and they come into contact with water weeds. She will then stop with her feet and arms on it and, after she has started to lay, is anchored by her egg–strings which get wound around the weeds. The Common Toad does not lay its eggs all at once like the Common Frog and spawning takes anything from ten to twenty–eight hours. Oviposition commences with a slow stretching movement of the female's body, the male responding to this movement by stretching his legs in the same way, his knees digging into her flank and his toes touching her cloaca. The female lays an average of six thousand ovules and, as they slowly emerge, the male ejects his semen into them by pumping movements. Once the ova are in the water they are no longer fertilizable for spermatozoa cannot penetrate the eggs after the gelatinous covering has swollen. Since, in the Common Frog, the eggs are emitted suddenly and in one mass, the consequent reduction of the female's size informs the male that the operation is over; but the male toad received no such indication when laying is finished. The passage of eggs over his feet appears to make known to him when he should discharge his sperm, and only by repeating the stretching movements and finding that no eggs emerge, does he realize he is no longer required by the female and he may release himself and swim away.
There is a toad known as Pipa americana, an inhabitant of the Guianas, the female of the species takes responsibility for her eggs after she has laid them. The oviduct of this female toad protrudes from her body in mating and the male presses the eggs out of it on to her back where they become firmly adhered. Each egg sinks into an invagination of the skin which is covered with a lid, and thus Pipa carries them around and incubates them on her back.
To return to Bufo bufo, once both male and female toads are spent, they show a strong dislike for water and become terrestrial again, returning to their haunts in fields, gardens or woods. Having fasted since the previous autumn, they now eat abundantly till hibernation is due again. Apart from these three frenzied weeks in the spring, they spend their lives in celibate solitude.
British Batrachians take no interest whatever in their offspring, neither in feeding nor rearing them. There is, however, a toad to be found in the Iberian Peninsula known as Alytes obstetricans, or the Midwife Toad, which is notable for the way in which the male will take care of the eggs laid by his mate. During mating he lubricates her cloacal region by numerous rapid strokes of the toes of both his feet till she expels the eggs which he then fecundates. Having facilitated the emission of her ova, the male pushes his hind limbs through the convoluted mass till they appear to be wound round him in a figure of eight. He then withdraws to a hole with the precious load for three weeks, occasionally emerging to moisten his eggs in the dew or immerse them in water. When the larvae are nearly ready for hatching, he takes them to the nearest pond or ditch where they burst through the gelatinous cover of the eggs.
The eggs of Bufo bufo are laid in double strings, unlike those of Rana temporaria which emerge in shapeless masses, and as the eggs leave the body of the female toad they become surrounded by a gelatinous envelope which swells on contact with water. Segmentation of the black and white eggs begins a few hours after fertilization, and division continues until the egg is covered with layers of cells, the black part forming the tadpole and the white the food store or yolk. After a week or so the head, body and tail of the tadpole is discernible, and in two or three weeks it digests its enclosing membrane and escapes into the water. The tadpole has as yet no mouth but continues to feed on the yolk of its egg contained in the ventral part of its body. Behind the spot where the mouth later appears is an adhesive organ, cement gland or sucker, secreting a sticky mucus which enables it to adhere to the underside of water plants or wherever it happens to be resting. This sucker increases in size, divides in the middle, and the two organs finally disappear when the mouth is fully formed, after which the tadpole breaks free from plants and nibbles at weeds with tiny teeth.
All tadpoles have a small, whitish spot between the eyes which is the pineal organ, an outgrowth from the optic thalamus, and which at one time in the history of Amphibia was possibly connected with vision. The toad tadpole, which is blacker than that of the frog and has a more rounded tail, feeds at first on filamentous algae and later on animal food. If the food available is inadequate they are liable to eat each other, and they make excellent scavengers, keeping the ponds free from decaying matter. At the eight week, hindlimbs appear at the root of the tadpole's tail, forelimbs develop and, as internal gills, which replaced the external ones, gradually disappear, its lungs are formed and it frequently comes to the surface for air. Toad larvae have the power of reconstituting lost parts such as tail, limbs or fingers, in a marked degree, and it lasts longer than in frog larvae. The fully– fledged toad, however, has no power of regeneration and can barely heal its wounds.
At about the twelfth week the tadpole ceases to feed; an outer skin is cast, its mouth becomes much wider, its tongue grows, its eyes enlarge and develop lids, and many other changes take place in its head, respiratory apparatus, circulatory system, and abdomen. All this time it is feeding on its tail, for this appendage, which forms one–third of the total weight of the tadpole, is being resorbed, providing a valuable supply of nourishment in the rebuilding process. In toads, completion of development takes approximately sixty–five days, and it then tries to leave the water and will drown if prevented.
When the stumpy–tailed young first leave the water, they stay in its vicinity, hiding in the grass or beneath stones or leaves, feeing on flies and insects. The so–called "showers of toads", where they are seen in hundreds, occur after a storm which has been preceded by a drought. The hordes soon disappear, many no doubt being devoured, and the rest slowly dispersing over the country–side. Toads are said to attain sexual maturity at the end of their fourth year.