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From the name, one might expect this type of toad to look like, well, a leaf. This type of mimicry is an example of cryptic coloration (compare aposematic coloration), which serves to camouflage the animal. These toads likely have other defenses—most amphibians have skin poisons—although less potent than the colorful poison frogs.

As members of the large amphibian genus Bufo, leaf toads share typical toad characteristics: short, stocky body with short legs and a rounded body. In some leaf toads, the body may be more flattened than in typical toads.

Most leaf toads are 2 to 3 inches in length and dull-colored, grayish green, with disruptive markings that break up the outline of the body and blend in with the leaf litter leaves. Several species have protuberances around the head and a light-colored thin dorsal stripe.

Note on taxonomy
The taxonomy of these toads is not well understood. Several similar-looking species share the common name. From a scientific standpoint, herpetologist Bill Lamar, an expert on Amazonian reptiles and amphibians, notes that most Amazonian leaf toads lack formal names and that he has recorded at least seven unnamed ones in the forests around Iquitos. Taxonomists are debating whether to reclassify the genus Bufo and perhaps to split it into two or more additional genera. Recent DNA analyses have reinforced the idea that this group is polyphyletic (Pramuk 2006); that is, derived from two or more ancestral groups. (This indicates that the genus is not a "natural" grouping.)

Leaf toad species are widely distributed across tropical South America, into parts of Central America in most frost-free areas. Their preferred habitat is rainforest among leaf litter on the forest floor in the ground layer.

Toads are generalist predators of insects and other invertebrates. Large species may take small mammals and reptiles, but these food items are an exception.

Among most species in the genus Bufo, males are usually smaller than females. The adult males of many species have a dark throat.

Bidder's organ is a spherical, brownish reproductive organ in male toads in the Bufonidae family. This is an incompletely developed ovary located just in front of the kidney. In the mature male, the organ serves no apparent purpose. However, if the toad's male glands are removed, Bidder's organ produces egg cells and hormones that cause female organs to develop.

For more information on the genus Bufo, see cane toad natural history.

The leaf toad is common. One name is the South American common toad. However, as mentioned above, the numbers and types of different species are uncertain in most cases, so some species may be more at risk than others. Since this toad requires moist forested habitat ongoing habitat destruction is likely to reduce populations.

Pramuk, J.B. (2006) Phylogeny of South American Bufo (Anura: Bufonidae) inferred from combined evidence. J. Linnean Society 146: 407-452

Links South American Common Toad Amphibians and Reptiles of Peru
Wikipedia: Bufo
San Diego Zoo: Amphibians: Frog & Toad
Zipcode Zoo: Bufo margaritifer
Pramuk, J.B. (2006) Phylogeny of South American Bufo (Anura: Bufonidae) inferred from combined evidence. J. Linnean Society 146: 407-452
A New Species of Bufo (Anura: Bufonidae) From Southern Ecuador

Mainly photos
Ribbit Photography: Toads South American Common Toad Leaf Toad
Cote Nature: South American common Toad (Bufo margaritifer)

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