Surinam Toad (Pipa pipa)
Reaching between 4 and 8 inches (10 - 20 cm) in length, the Surinam toad has a large, triangular head with small, dark and beady eyes. A strange looking amphibian, the body of the Surinam toad is flat and generally brown or olive colored. Its two front limbs are weak, but they contain small sensory organs to help the tongueless toad locate food; its hind legs are large and fully webbed, helping the toad move through the murky waters it calls home. Female Surinam toads can carry their entire clutch of close to 100 eggs in the small depressions on their backs. Three months after fertilization, these offspring will hatch into fully formed toads, skipping the larval or tadpole stage.
The Surinam toad can be found in turbid streams and rivers throughout South America, particularly within the Amazon River basin. It prefers slow moving or stagnant waters where it can lie in wait on the riverbed until surfacing for air when needed.
The Surinam toad subsists on worms, insects, crustaceans and small fish. It hunts and forages primarily at night, lying almost motionless until food wanders near. The toad then either shovels the prey into its mouth with its star-like fingers or opens its mouth wide enough to suck in the prey. The Surinam toad does discriminate between living or dead food sources.
While not in any immediate danger, the Surinam toad is vulnerable to run off that pollutes streams and rivers. Heavy rain can wash fertilizers and other substances into rivers, causing eutrophication, or the buildup of vegetation, often in the form of oxygen-depleting algae blooms. Furthermore, the increase of pollutants can also cause genetic mutations in river inhabitants, including sensitive amphibians.
- Jukofsky, Diane. Encyclopedia of Rainforests. Connecticut: Oryx Press, 2002.
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology website, 2007
- "Surinam Toad," St. Louis Zoo website, 2007
- Photo by Hugo Claessen: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pipa_pipa01.jpg