Great Plains Toad

Anaxyrus cognatus
Species of Conservation Concern
Family

Bufonidae (true toads) in the order Anura (frogs)

Description

The Great Plains toad is a medium-sized toad with large, dark brown or green, paired blotches on the back and sides. Each blotch is usually encircled with white or light tan and contains many warts. Unlike other true toads in Missouri, the Great Plains toad has a raised hump (called a “boss”) between the eyes. The belly is cream-colored with little or no spotting. Makes a loud, rapid, piercing, metallic, chugging “chee-ga, chee-ga, chee-ga” that lasts 20–50 seconds. The inflated vocal sac of calling males is sausage-shaped and extends forward and above the snout.

Size

Length (snout to vent): 2 to 3 inches. Females are larger than males.

Great Plains Toad

Image of a great plains toad
Audio of a Great Plains Toad.
Habitat and conservation

Found along the Missouri River floodplain, where it hides in burrows by day. It is best looked for in prairies and open floodplains of rivers; it avoids forested areas. As with most other toads, this species hides in underground burrows by day and emerges at night to feed.

Foods

At night it emerges to feed on ants, beetles, and other insects.

image of Great Plains Toad Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Missouri River floodplain, from the northwestern corner to the central part of the state.

Status

Rare in Missouri, but found throughout the Great Plains. A Species of Conservation Concern.

Life cycle

Breeding aggregations form from mid-March to early June, always after heavy rains, in flooded fields, rain-filled ditches, and temporary pools. Females can lay several thousand eggs. These hatch in about a week, and the tadpoles metamorphose into tiny toadlets (less than ½ inch long) in about 3 weeks to a month.

Human connections

As predators of insects, these amphibians help decrease populations of many insects that are pests to humans. Additionally, their beautiful and strange singing adds to the magic of a Missouri evening.

Ecosystem connections

Toads are predators that help keep populations of ants and other insects in balance. They, and especially their eggs, tadpoles, and young toadlets, become food for both aquatic and terrestrial predators ranging from water bugs to fish to grackles to raccoons.