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toad, name applied to certain members of the amphibian order Anura, which also includes the frog. Although there is no clear-cut distinction between toads and frogs, the name toad commonly refers to those species that have relatively short legs, stout bodies, and thick skins, and are less aquatic as adults than the long-legged, slender-bodied frogs.
Sometimes the term toad is restricted to the so-called true toads, members of the family Bufonidae. These are characterized by warty skins and prominent parotid glands behind the eyes and as a group are the most terrestrial of the order. In most the feet are only slightly webbed. They range in length from about 1 to 7 in. (2.5–18 cm). Most species belong to the genus Bufo; members of these species spend much of the time on land, generally near water. They generally live in cool, moist places and absorb moisture through the skin. The white fluid that they exude through the skin, as well as from the parotid glands, is very poisonous and causes intense burning if it comes in contact with the eyes or mouth; however, contrary to an old belief, it does not cause warts. Toads, like frogs, move on land by jumping and feed on insects and grubs. Also like frogs, they usually lay their eggs in water in strands of jelly. Fertilization is external. The egg hatches into a tadpole, a gilled, aquatic, larval toad that undergoes metamorphosis into the adult.
There are about a dozen Bufo species in the United States, among them the common American toad (Bufo americanus), Fowlers toad (B. fowleri), of the E United States, and the red-spotted toad (B. punctatus), of the Southwest. The cane, marine, or giant toad (B. marinus), a large toad native to Central and N South America, was widely introduced in warm regions (Caribbean, Pacific, Australia, and Florida) to control agricultural pests but is now regarded as an invasive species; they compete with and prey on native species, and their toxic secretions can kill predators.
The spadefoot toads, burrowing toads of the family Pelobatidae, are represented in the United States by several species of the genus Scaphiopus. Toads are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Amphibia, order Anura.
Toad(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
Many a Witch of old was accused of having a "familiar"—an imp of the devil—to do her bidding, and this was frequently described by her accusers as being in the shape of a toad. One reason behind this thought was that most Wise Ones would indeed keep a toad in their garden to take care of the insects that attacked the flowers and plants. Many of the aromatic plants and herbs attracted all forms of insect life. A toad was therefore a common possession.
In 1566 Mother Waterhouse, one of the Chelmsford witches, purportedly changed her white-spotted cat into a toad. In 1579, at Windsor, Mother Dutton of Cleworth Parish was accused of keeping a spirit "in the likeness of a toad" and feeding it while it was "lying in a border of green herbs" in her garden. Three years later, at St. Osyth in Essex, eight-year-old Thomas Rabbet claimed that his mother, Ursley Kemp, had several spirits, one of which was "black like a toad." That same year, Alice Hunt, also of St. Osyth, confessed to having two spirits like toads, "the one called Tom and the other Robbyn." In 1599 Olive Barthram, executed at Bury St. Edmunds for "devilish and wicked witcheries practiced upon Joan Jorden," was supposed to have sent three toads to trouble her victim in her bed. In 1665, at the trial of the Bury St. Edmund witches, a Dr. Jacob gave evidence that he had found a toad in the bedding of one of the children involved in accusing the two women in the case. The doctor stated that he had thrown the toad into a fire and as a result one of the accused, Amy Duny, developed burns on her arms. Similarly, in the Maldon case of 1579, a toad was burned and Mary Smith (executed in 1616) also suffered appropriate burns.
It was generally believed that a jewel could be found buried in a toad's head. Such a stone had great magical properties and was highly sought. Any stone that had a color reminiscent of a toad, or was in the shape of a toad, came to be called a "toad stone" and might be set into a ring or pendant, to be worn as a protective talisman.