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a family of tailless amphibians with a procoelous vertebral column that includes most toads. They are found on all continents and comprise over 1,200 species, divided into seven subfamilies: Criniinae (Australian toads), Heleophryninae, Pseudinae, Rhinophryninae, Elosiinae, Leptodactylinae, and Bufoninae (true toads). The Australian toads are the most primitive, differing from the rest in having a remnant of the notochord continuous throughout the vertebrae.
Representatives of the subfamily Bufoninae are distinguished by the complete absence of teeth and by dilated sacral diapophyses. They are found throughout the world, except in New Guinea, Polynesia, Australia, and Madagascar. There are but five genera, of which the most primitive is the viviparous Nectophrynoides of East Africa. The widespread true toads (genus Bufo), with some 250 species, are mainly terrestrial and nocturnal; they swim and jump relatively poorly and lay their eggs in strings. Representatives of some species may attain a length of 25 cm.
In the USSR there are four species of the true toad: the European, green, Mongolian, and natterjack toads. The European toad (B. Bufo) is widespread in the northern and temperate zones, living in forests, gardens, and meadows and hiding under rocks and in stumps during the day. It is found in mountains to altitudes of 3,000 m. It feeds voraciously on insects, spiders, slugs, and earthworms. Its body is up to 20 cm long, with a solid or mottled grayish brown or olive green coloring. The green toad (B. viridis) is found chiefly in the Crimea, the Caucasus, and Middle Asia, inhabiting drier regions, sometimes even desert oases. It may attain a length of 14 cm, and its coloring is mottled, with black spots on a greenish background. The Mongolian toad (B. raddei) may be found throughout Eastern Siberia and the Far East, and the natterjack toad (B. calamita) is widespread in the western part of the USSR.
Skin secretions of toads irritate the mucous membrane of animals, sometimes killing small animals. Toads are useful in controlling pests in gardens and orchards.
REFERENCETerent’ev, P. V. Gerpetologiia. Moscow, 1961.
P. V. TERENT’EV