What's the Difference Between a Frog and a Toad?

illustration copyright Arnold Lobel

Ever wonder what the difference is between a frog and a toad? At FROGS ARE GREEN, we thought we’d enlighten you so that when you’re hiking in the woods and someone says, “Look at that cute frog!” you’ll be able to say, “That’s not a frog, that’s a toad!”

Frogs and toads are both amphibians in the order Anura.  Of the three major classifications of amphibians, frogs make up the vast majority, about 90 percent of all amphibian species (the other types of amphibians are salamanders and caecilians). Toads are a sub-classification of frogs, meaning that all toads are frogs, but not all frogs are toads (clear so far?).

WHERE DO FROGS AND TOADS LIVE

Both frogs and toads live near ponds, swamps, and marshes. Frogs can live on the ground or in trees. But toads live only on the ground.

SLIM VS. CHUBBY

Both frogs and toads have stubby front legs and they are both about the same size. But frogs have slimmer bodies and longer hind legs. These limbs are especially good for leaping from tree to tree and for swimming.

Toads are chubbier than frogs. They have shorter hind legs, good for hopping around on the ground, or walking and crawling. They are a bit slower and less active than their leaping frog cousins.

WEBBED FEET OR NOT?

Frogs usually have webbed hind feet, and some have webbed front feet. Some frogs, such as tree frogs, have pads on their toes that help frogs climb trees, or even stick to a glass window.

Most toads don’t have webbed feet or sticky toe pads. They move by a series of short hops on land.

SMOOTH VS. WARTY

Frog skin is usually smooth and moist. Toad skin is drier and bumpier. The bumps look like warts and its skin feels rough (don’t worry—you won’t get warts if you touch a toad’s skin!).

FROG AND TOAD EGGS

Frogs lay eggs in bunches, or clusters, which have a jelly-like substance around them. Toads lay their eggs in lines, or strands, on leaves of plants that live in the water.

These are the basic differences between frogs and toads, but things do get confusing. You can’t necessarily go by the common name of the frog or toad. In some parts of the world, especially tropical areas near the equator, frogs and toads often look alike. For example, the Harlequin frog is actually a toad. The only way to tell these frogs and toads apart is to look at the differences in their teeth and bones. Also, if a frog-like amphibian lives in a dry area, it is most likely a toad.

But for the most part, these guidelines will help you distinguish between the two types of amphibians. So this summer get your camera, your notebook, and binoculars and see if you can find some of these intriguing animals in the woods, near marshes and ponds, or even in your backyard.

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