This section is from the book "The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation", by George Abbey. Also available from Amazon: The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation.
The Common Toad (Bufo vulgaris), Fig. 56, belongs to the order Anoura of amphibian Vertebrata and family Bufonidae, which is distinguished by the toes of the hind feet being slightly webbed, but not so perfectly as in the frogs. The toes of the front limbs are not connected by a web. The skin is very prominently provided with warty tubercles and glandular bodies, and paratoid glands (borne on the sides of the head) are developed. A well-developed tongue exists, but no teeth are developed; the tongue is fixed to the front of the mouth, but is free posteriorly, this latter being protrusible.
The toad passes through a metamorphosis, appearing first as a tadpole, breathing by outside and then by internal gills, and finally, after losing its tail and developing lungs, leaving the water and appearing in its adult state as a terrestrial and lung-breathing form. The toads visit the water in March or April, their breeding season, for the purpose of depositing their eggs, which are deposited in long strings, the male drawing the eggs out of the female's body. In habits the toad is nocturnal, prowling about nearly everywhere in the evening in quest of prey. It hides by day among stones, grass, coarse herbage, leaves, rubbish, etc. It feeds upon slugs, woodlice, flies, earwigs, and other insects, including their larvae, such as caterpillars. During winter the toad hybernates, choosing a hole, in the ground, frequently at the root of a tree and in clefts of rock or heaps of stones, and passes the winter in solitary dignity.
The popular repugnance to the toad rests mainly on its unprepossessing and outward appearance, for no venom or poison apparatus exists in this very useful creature, and save that the secretion of the skin may be of an acrid or irritant nature when brought in contact with cut or exposed surfaces, it is utterly harmless in every way. The toad is easily tamed, and in a garden or plant-house one of the most useful creatures. Reports of toads having been found immured in solid rocks, where they must have remained for ages, and yet crawling about lively and well on being released, are published every year. Objections, however, to their reception may be found: firstly, that the rock was solid; secondly, that the relaters of such tales seldom notice the circumstances of imprisonment, and "jump to conclusions" on superstitious ideas; and thirdly, the possibility of the toad gaining admittance through a crack in the rock while quite young, and there subsisting on insects, whilst its increasing growth prevents its escape from the cavity in which it is found on the rock being broken up.
Similar remarks apply to toads said to be found in the "hearts" of trees, this being always at the butt, where many trees are more or less hollow, and the opening from below, though not perhaps corresponding to where the toad is located. It appears not to be known that a rent or cleft in the solid wood of a tree never closes, and in this a toad may have crept when young and not been able to escape; but whilst the tree was occluding the fissure it increased in size by feeding on insects, or, particularly, woodlice (crustacea), and was ultimately apparently entombed by new bark and wood over the aperture by which the toad at first entered, though it is doubtful if it be entirely deprived of food and air. Experiments conducted by Dr. Buckland in 1825 demonstrated that toads from which all air was cut off, died before a year's imprisonment.
Fig. 56. - The Common Toad and Woodlice.