Frogs and toads are both amphibians in the same taxonomic order but belong to different families (Ranidae and Bufonidae, respectively). Most Ranidae species have smooth, moist skin, a narrow body, long legs and teeth in the upper jaw. Members of the Bufonidae family have bumpy skin, a short body, stocky legs and usually don’t have teeth. Each can use poison as a defense, but in Ranidae, it is secreted through the skin, whereas in Bufonidae, it is held in poison sacs behind the eyes. Although both animals are found around the world, frogs prefer moist environments, while toads enjoy dry conditions.
Technically, both animals are in the Anura order, so taxonomically speaking, there’s no difference between the two. “True” frogs belong to the Ranidae family, however, which has roughly 400 species. Members of the Bufonidae family are the “true” toads. Scientists have identified about 300 species. In some cases, the distinction between the animals is hard because characteristics usually associated with one family are present in the other.
The living region of frogs is a little more widespread. They live everywhere except Antarctica. Toads are not found in Madagascar, Australia, New Guinea and the polar regions.
Body and Leg Shape
Overall, the body of a toad tends to be short. Its legs usually are quite stubby. This gives it a roundish, stocky or squatty appearance. Frogs look a little leaner and have elongated legs.
A species within the Ranidae family generally has smooth skin. When pulled out of the water, it feels velvety or slimy, because it secretes mucus. This forms a protective barrier over the skin that keeps it moist. Most members of the Bufonidae family have dry, bumpy skin, which is often described as warty.
A person often can tell which amphibian he is handling by looking at the animal’s eyes. Frogs’ eyes bulge out from the head. They tend to be very round. By contrast, the eyes of a toad are inset and do not protrude.
Teeth and Snout
A major difference between these two amphibians are that Ranidae have teeth. These are found only in the upper jaw. The noses of these species also tend to be longer, matching the overall long shape of the body. Bufonidae do not have any teeth and have blunt, short noses. Despite this, both animals eat roughly the same type of diet, which includes organisms such as insects, grubs, worms, snails and very small fish.
Members of the Bufonidae family are unique in that they have noticeable poison sacs behind their eyes. Some species that fall into the Ranidae family still can use poison as a defense, however. They secrete poison through their skin rather than having poison sacs. Bright colors often warn predators that the amphibian isn’t safe to eat.
All of the differences toads and frogs exhibit are adaptations that help members of each family to survive in different environments. In general, Ranidae need to live near water and typically lay eggs in clusters. Bufonidae prefer dry environments and usually lay eggs in chains. The long legs of frogs, along with the webbing that often occurs on their feet, help them to swim and jump long distances. The short legs of toads are much better suited to moving with short hops or walking over land.