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What Is the Difference between a Frog and a Toad?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated May 21, 2024
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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.

Classification

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.

Geographical Location

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.

Skin Texture

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.

Eyes

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.

Poison

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.

Environment

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main physical differences between frogs and toads?

Frogs typically have smooth, moist skin and longer hind legs for leaping, while toads generally possess drier, bumpy skin and shorter legs for walking. Frogs are often found near water bodies due to their skin requiring moisture, whereas toads can venture further from water sources, thanks to their more water-retentive skin.

Can frogs and toads be distinguished by their eggs?

Yes, their eggs can be a distinguishing feature. Frogs usually lay their eggs in clusters or masses that resemble bunches of grapes, often in water. Toads, on the other hand, lay their eggs in long chains or strings that they wrap around vegetation in the water, which provides additional protection and stability for the developing embryos.

Do frogs and toads have different habitats?

Frogs and toads do occupy different habitats, although there is some overlap. Frogs are more commonly associated with wet environments like ponds, lakes, and swamps due to their need for moist skin. Toads can often be found in gardens, forests, and fields, as they are better adapted to drier conditions.

Are there behavioral differences between frogs and toads?

Behavioral differences are notable; frogs are primarily known for their powerful leaps and swimming abilities, while toads tend to walk rather than jump and are less adept swimmers. Toads also have a unique defense mechanism: they can secrete a toxin from their skin to deter predators, which is less common in frogs.

How do the diets of frogs and toads differ?

The diets of frogs and toads are quite similar, as both are carnivorous and consume a variety of insects, spiders, and small invertebrates. However, due to their different habitats, the specific prey they encounter can vary. Frogs might catch more aquatic or flying insects, while toads often eat ground-dwelling creatures.

Is it true that toads cause warts in humans?

This is a common myth, but it's not true. Toads cannot cause warts in humans. Warts are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), not by toads or any other animals. The bumps on a toad's skin are glands that produce a variety of secretions, some of which are toxic to predators, but they are harmless to human skin.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a AllThingsNature contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By JackWhack — On Nov 14, 2012

@wavy58 – Yes, there is a way. The size and color are different.

Frog tadpoles are grayish-brown with black dots. You can see their little eyes pretty well.

Toad tadpoles are shorter than frog tadpoles and are solid black. You can't even tell that they have eyes.

I had some frog tadpoles in my swimming pool! I discovered them in the early summer when I uncovered the pool, and they looked totally different from the toad tadpoles in the pond nearby.

By wavy58 — On Nov 13, 2012

Is there a way to tell frog tadpoles apart from toad tadpoles? Do all tadpoles look the same at this stage of life?

By StarJo — On Nov 13, 2012

The location of the amphibian can help you determine what it is in some cases. If I see one clinging to my window, I know that it is a frog, because only frogs can use their feet like suction cups to cling to things like windows and trees.

If I see it on the ground and it blends in with the dirt and leaves, it is probably a toad. They are grayish-brown and sometimes hard to distinguish from their surroundings.

Some people think that toads don't jump, but this isn't true. Just try to touch one or watch as your dog sniffs it, and you will see that they are pretty good jumpers.

By Perdido — On Nov 12, 2012

I saw a glob of frog eggs right next to a string of toad eggs in my neighbor's pond. It was easy to tell the difference between the two.

The frog eggs appeared to be encased in gray gelatin. The frog eggs looked like peppercorns strung together on a transparent string.

By anon115883 — On Oct 04, 2010

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By anon52280 — On Nov 12, 2009

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By anon51016 — On Nov 02, 2009

Thanks a lot for the information! It helped me find out what the difference between a frog and a toad was for my classmates and my teacher!

By anon50513 — On Oct 29, 2009

I think your article is useful for students to show them an example of comparing and contrasting two things. I used this article to get students to look at transition and structure words and phrases. Thanks!

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By anon45365 — On Sep 16, 2009

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Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen

Writer

With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a AllThingsNature contributor, Tricia...
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