On May 2, air temperatures rose to around 70F here in upstate New York, and the American Toads migrated overland in mass to a nearby pond. The chorus of trills built in intensity through the day and by early afternoon, a full “mating frenzy” was in progress.
Dozens of males could be seen swimming about, excitedly searching for receptive females. At times, groups of males clumped together around a single female, each frantically trying to take hold of the female and kick his suitors away. Pairs in amplexus gathered in the shallows, often sinking to the bottom, both to avoid interference by other males, and also give females a chance to lay their long strings of eggs (which are fertilized by the male as they are being laid).
My goal for videography was to get better above-water footage of a “toad knot,” where a large group of males were all trying to mount the same female. Another goal was to get underwater footage showing behavior from a new perspective, and especially try for females laying eggs. I succeeded to a degree on both counts, though my egg-laying footage doesn’t include sections where one can actually see females forcing eggs out of their cloaca. Oh well, next year is only a year away … I’ll surely do better then!
All in all, the mating frenzy was quite an amazing spectacle, not only for the toads, but also for humans. The pond was next to a housing development, and parents and kids alike gathered along the shoreline, captivated by the show. One girl even swam to the chorus from the other side of the pond. As she floated offshore, males climbed on to her arm, clasping her skin in apparent delight.
NOTE: The video soundtrack is unedited, recorded on-board the video camera and including a number of glitches (overloads, scratchy sounds during the underwater clips, etc.). In a final production, I will likely swap it with a more pleasing toad ambience.
For more videos and information about the American Toad, check out my American Toad – Dreamy Triller nature vignette.
Fantastic video! I also love the photo of the girl with her toad suitors. Good for her for not being squeamish about them. I once had three males grab on to my hand when I dislodge a whole bunch of them from a female who was exhibiting signs of distress after 30 minutes of several males grasping her. No eggs were being released, and she rapidly swam off while I learned – to my amazement – just how powerful amplexus is.
Good for you, to release that female from the mess. Toad knots seem (to me) to be a malfunction in mating behavior, of little benefit to either sex.
WOW! The texture of the skin. The underwater shots. I especially liked it when the one toad floated by in the foreground. I laughed.
The toad frenzy in my pond draws hundreds every year. But they run the risk of predation: Among the clever Crows in the neighborhood, cultural knowledge includes the trick of rolling the toads onto their backs as they come up over the grassy dike, then puncturing their bellies to eat their livers. Happens to quite a few of the would-be revellers, and their otherwise untouched corpses are strewn belly-up in the grass. Yet the reproductive strategy of the toads wins through: they simply overwhelm the predatory Crows with numbers.
Wow, that’s quite the story. I’ve never seen any predation, but it doesn’t surprise me at all that crows cash-in on the frenzy.
The underwater footage is great! Funny to see one of them getting its toes tangled in eggs.
Charley … yes, I liked that sequence. I have some great video footage from last year of a pair quite tangled in their eggs, and attempting multiple times to extricate themselves. After nearly a half hour of struggle, they finally managed to get themselves untangled.
Hi Lang. Nice shots. I watched the spectacle in
side-pools along six-mile creek. Somewhat less
activity than in years past. A couple of questions:
1. There were water snakes about. Could that be
a reason why there were fewer participating in the
orgy this year? A kid 3-1/2 feet tall caught and took
home a 2-1/2 ft. snake.
2. There were strings of eggs that looked like the
strings in your video that have a translucent sleeve
of greater diameter than the strings apparently streaming
afresh from the females. Is that just diffusion of material from the
once-tight strings or is it a membrane? These sleeves w/eggs
were coiled as tightly as 3 or 4 ~5/8″loops/inch in places. Are these
loops just indications that they’ve been in the water a longer time?
Do the eggs all become separated completely before they hatch?
Ken: I’m not totally sure about what makes some egg strings more coiled than others. As I understand it, the gelatinous membrane expands/forms after laying. In other words, totally fresh eggs don’t have a thick gelatinous covering. But maybe I’m wrong on this. With regard to the snakes, they certainly do take toads, although they are unlikely to make much of a dent in the population (I think they can only swallow one toad at a time and it takes a long time for them to digest a fair-sized toad). Also, it is unlikely that toads would avoid a spot because of snakes. I imagine they are too overcome with passion (= hormones) to give a whit about dangers lurking nearby. Whatever … those are my guesses.
I have never seen anything like this! Thanks so much Lang!!!! Both above and below the water was truly spectacular!
PLUS… I love seeing the color variation of all of them together!
Reminds me of High School…
Amphibian erotica at its finest!
Spectacular–event and quality of video both! Fascinating to have views from underwater as well as above, and to feel so close to the action, forms, textures. I’ve never seen such a great rotating knot of toads as appeared here.
All hail the toad knot!
Toad Mating Frenzy is a good name for a band
yep … that would make most any band famous!
Wow! Just Wow! Amazing footage Lang! Loved the shots underwater and the actual eggs being “excreted”.
As usual, your footage of toads is wonderful and informative! The trilling is beautiful and the knots are so funny to watch! Nature is amazing, for sure. Thank you for helping us to see, hear and learn!
And thank YOU for commenting!
Amazing footage! I wouldn’t alter a thing,sonically. I have Australian White’s tree frogs, and they are now merrily chirping away. I guess amore’ translates in any language,lol