I was first drawn to this species when I saw a picture of it. The image of a fat, globulous toad with bright orange markings was too amusing to ignore. Blogging about funny-looking species is always a blast because I get to pepper the post with lots of fun pictures.

Mexican burrowing toads are fairly unique animals — they are the only extant members of their family, Rhinophrynidae. In fact, these guys are thought to be the most evolutionarily unique amphibian in the world. That’s a pretty cool title to have.

See how silly they look? Image by Greg Schechter from San Francisco, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Despite its name, the Mexican burrowing toad doesn’t just live in Mexico. They venture into southern Texas, and are also found in other Central American countries, such as Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. So if I were naming this species, I’d call it the Central American toad, but I’m sure that would be too accurate for taxonomists.

As I mentioned earlier, burrowing toads are nice plump animals. They aren’t overly large, only reaching lengths of eight centimetres. The toads have bright red-orange spots on their bodies, as well as a red stripe down their backs. Since these guys are burrowers, they require some way of digging. To this end, they have hardened, shovel-like additions to their feet, as well as stocky, muscular legs.

Burrowing is very important to Mexican burrowing toads. They spend the majority of their lives underground, only emerging to breed. Breeding season for these toads can occur at any time of the year, as there is only one required condition: rain. After heavy rains, the toads emerge from their underground lairs and go in search of breeding pools. Males call for females, using a creepy low-pitched call that kind of sounds like the word ‘whoa’. You can listen to it here.

A juvenile burrowing toad, who hasn’t quite developed the pretty orange spots yet. Image from Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Once the rains dry up, the adult toads head back to the safety of the underground, leaving their young to mature on their own. It only takes the eggs a few days to hatch, and they change into adults in one to three months.

For toads that spend almost their entire lives underground, where they can’t be found, these guys sure have interesting looks. I guess if you only have a few days to attract a mate, you’d better look pretty unique.

Cover image by William L. Farr, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons