hidden treasures of Drake Bay, Costa Rica with Tracie "The Bug Lady" .
Meet the Bug
Tales from the
Facts about Drake Bay, Costa Rica
Travel To Drake Bay
Drake Bay Area Map
Tips for Travelers
adjust your screen! Your eyes do not deceive you and NO, this
picture was not doctored! Welcome to the world of the Giant Marine
Toad, Costa Rica's largest amphibian. A predator nothing short of
pictures were taken in early December 2006 during a Night Tour.
We were wrapping up the
evening when we came across this grizzly scene. A Marine Toad no
larger than 12 centimeters swallowing a 30 centimeter Sock-headed
Snake (Enuliophis sclateri). As we
approached we startled the toad and he partially regurgitated the
still living, still squirming snake.
Seconds later, as it grew accustomed to our incredulous stares, it
proceeded to engulf the helpless snake. The whole process took about
15 excruciating minutes, leaving the toad bloated to the point of
catatonia and seemingly unable to hop away to save its own life.
It just sat there looking as satisfied by his feat as we were
shocked by it.
Giant Marine Toads are, without a doubt, noteworthy predators. With
adult females reaching weights of 1.5 kilograms and measuring up to
240 millimeters they are a menacing presence. Individuals
don't get quite that large in Costa Rica and adult females normally
reach their maximum length at 175 millimeters. Nevertheless, several
guests on the Night Tour have confessed to having mistaken them for garden
Giant Marine Toads are opportunistic sit-and-wait predators.
Prey items may
include insects, spiders, small frogs and reptiles, mice, rats and
pretty much any other small animal it can stuff into its mouth. It
is in the vicinity of homes with house pets where you find the very large ones.
Not necessarily because they eat the house animals, although they
have been known to eat kittens, but because they have learned to feed on
canned and dry
pet food. This is a remarkable accomplishment for the toad because
in nature they don't
normally eat inanimate objects.
are the notorious Cane Toads, reviled the world over by most of
those obliged to share their homes with them. Although they are
native to Costa Rica, they have been exported throughout the world
and have become a rather cosmopolitan species.
It is now considered that
Giant Marine Toads have adapted to life amongst humans and to our
disturbed habitats even better than their natural habitats.
Population samples in some agricultural areas have been estimated at
an astonishing 300 toads per hectare! Meanwhile, scientists
calculate Marine Toad populations living along forest edges at about
10 toads per hectare and those living in natural open areas at about
25 toads per hectare.
Although these behemoths are
now widely considered pests this was not always the case. Giant
Marine Toads were willingly imported by people throughout the
Caribbean Islands and into the Philippines, Hawaii, New Guinea,
Australia and Florida. This was done in a failed attempt to control
insect pests in sugarcane plantations. Many of the areas they were
imported into left the toads with no natural predators and
populations exploded. The voracious toads then proceeded to devour
every native species they could catch. This has seriously depleted
diversity in many areas.
In Australia it's impact is
not only environmental, but also economical. There, Giant Marine
Toads use waterways to breed and large numbers of them also die
there. Decaying toads and their toxic eggs contaminate water sources used by herds of sheep and
cattle. This kills the animals, leaving ranchers to count their losses.
regions where they are native, Marine Toads are preyed upon by a variety of
reptiles, birds, and mammals. They are afforded some protection from
predators by the two large toxin glands located behind their eyes. When
disturbed, Giant Marine Toads can spray the toxin from their glands
a distance of up to 30 centimeters and a cat or dog could easily die
by simply mouthing it. Rainforest mammals like Opossums, Raccoons,
and Coatis have been observed flipping the toads over and starting
their meal through the toad's soft stomach, thereby avoiding the
The toxin is a milky liquid
garnished with a chemical named Bufotenidine. This substance has been
attributed hallucinogenic properties and is said to have effects
similar to LSD. Some turn to the Marine Toad searching for a
psychedelic trip via toad licking. This activity should always be
avoided. Other symptoms, apart from the hallucinations, may include
hypertension, constricting blood vessels, overly powerful heartbeat,
and could culminate in a direct poisoning of the heart muscle.
their mating season males congregate in breeding areas. These are
usually located near slow moving streams. Calling males will sit
partially submerged at the edge of the water and call out to the
females. If a male successfully attracts a female, mating will take
place while they are in the water.
will lay up to 25,000 eggs as the male releases a cloud of sperm
into the water.
The eggs are attached to two
and covered with toxic jelly. The female toad will wrap the strings around
vegetation growing from the bottom of the breeding pool to anchor
them. The eggs
develop for three to four days days before hatching and tadpoles will
complete their metamorphosis in sixty to seventy-five days. After
the little toads emerge from the water, the pace of their growth is
tremendous. Males will reach close to their maximum size the first
year of their lives, while the larger females will grow for four to
five years. Giant Marine Toads have been known to live as long as 16
years in captivity.
Janzen, D. 1983 Costa Rican Natural History
University of Chicago Press
2001 A Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica
Savage, J. 2002 The Amphibians and Reptiles of
Costa Rica University of Chicago Press