Is a Toad a Frog?

I love discussing different types of frogs and how they have very different characteristics, traits, and habits. Although aquatic frogs, toads, and arboreal frogs are different in many ways, they are all frogs. 

But there seems to be this big debate online as to finally deciding, once and for all, if toads are frogs and if these terms can be used interchangeably. I love this discussion and here is the scientific approach to the question.

All toads are terrestrial frogs classified as amphibians in the order of Anura. Different toad species can be found among a variety of subclassifications or genera of frogs including in the Bufo, Bufonidae, and Bufotes families. However, not all frogs are toads. 

All toads are frogs, but not all frogs are toads.

toadsnfrogs.com

Let’s have a closer look at what this means when considering each type of frog, from aquatic, arboreal (tree frogs), and terrestrial frogs (toads).

All Toads Are Frogs

All toads are frogs as toad species can be categorized among a series of families and genera of frogs including true toads (Bufonidae).

Scientifically speaking, there is no distinction between toads and “frogs.” To put it simply, toads are terrestrial frogs and are classified among a number of subcategories, families, or genera of frogs.

Some toad families and genera include the following:

  • Bufo
  • Bufonidae
  • Bufotes
  • Epidalea
  • Strauchbufo
  • Leptophryne
  • Ghatophryne
  • Sabahphrynus
  • Ansonia
  • Pelophryne
  • Ingerophrynus
  • Phrynoidis
  • Rentapia
  • Bombinatoridae
  • Calyptocephalellidae
  • Discoglossidae
  • Pelobatidae
  • Rhinophrynidae
  • Scaphiopodidae

Let’s cover similarities between toads, aquatic frogs, and arboreal frogs in this section, and have a look at differences in the next section.

Aquatic Frog
Arboreal Frog
Terrestrial Frog

All frogs (aquatic, arboreal, or terrestrial) are classified in the Anura Order which is one of the three Orders that categorize amphibious species. General Anura characteristics include a squat, tailless adult body with long hind limbs, large eyes, and an external tympanum.

Here is a quick recap of the similarities between all kinds of frogs:

There are over 7,400 known frog species to date, and this number increases every month as new frog discoveries are made.

Learn more about the similarities between frogs and toads on our blog

Not All Frogs Are Toads

Terrestrial toad species differ from aquatic and arboreal frogs in many ways. 

Aquatic frogs generally have smooth skin, long, powerful hind legs made for swimming and jumping, webbed toes, and live in freshwater environments.

Arboreal frogs generally also have smooth skin, but tend to be much smaller than aquatic frogs, have padded toes for climbing, and live in and around trees.

Toads, however, are terrestrial frogs and as their name suggests, they live on land as adults. 

Aquatic FrogTree FrogTerrestrial Frog
BodyLeanSmallStubby
SkinSmoothSmoothBumpy
ToesWebbedCupsSpaded
Paratoid GlandNoNoYes
TeethYesYesNo
HabitatFreshwaterTreesLand

All toads are poisonous, however, not all frogs can secrete toxins from their skin. Toads also lay eggs in strings whereas most other frog species lay eggs in clusters

Although all frog species have longer hind legs compared to their front legs, toads have shorter hind legs compared to aquatic frogs, making them worse swimmers or jumpers. Therefore, toads tend to get around by hopping rather than leaping.

However, toads have bodies that are made for digging, helping them access their favourite place to spend the day, underground.

These species may also differ in color, as many frogs are adapted to their environment, with aquatic and arboreal frogs mostly being green or brown, and toads being a shade of brown.

These frogs also hibernate (brumate) differently due to their main environments as toads hibernate below the frost line, aquatic frogs spend the winter underwater, and tree frogs freeze completely below leaf-litter.

Let’s have a closer look at syntax which directly affects the perception of frogs and toads in society.

Learn more about the differences between frogs and toads on our blog

True Toads & Other Terrestrial Frogs

Everything is not always clear cut when it comes to general terms such as “terrestrial frog” or “toad.” Even the general terms “arboreal frog”, “tree frog”, and “aquatic frog” can lead to confusion.

Most people think of True Toads when they hear the general term. However, there are many toad species that are not considered “True Toads” or a part of the Bufonidae family. 

Although true toads are an incredibly diverse group of frog species including 50 genera and 600 species, there are hundreds of frogs that resemble toads, but are not classified as such.

Fire-Belly Toads (Bombinatoridae) and Asian toads (Megophryidae) are called “Toads”, but their scientific classifications place them in frog categories (CTNF).

I think toads are awesome and loved observing them roam our yard as a kid. But toads have such a bad reputation due to Cane Toads. But not all toad species are invasive or problematic like Cane Toads.

American Toads can be found in many states and provinces throughout the US and Eastern Canada and pose no risk to humans (if you let them be).

Toad-min
A beautiful American Toad I found in the wild

All kinds of toad species are awesome for pest control in organic gardens. You just have to keep your pets away from them.

So keep an open mind when discussing toads since it is our language that limits us when it comes to defining them. 

Unless you have an exam and you need to be scientifically correct, what truly matters is we agree on the need to respect toads for the incredible animals they are 🙂

More About Toads And Frogs

This entire blog is dedicated to frogs, toads, and everything they represent. The following articles may interest you if you would like to learn more:

Daniella Master Herpetologist

Daniella is a Master Herpetologist and the founder of toadsnfrogs.com, a website dedicated to educating the general population on frogs by meeting them where they are in their online Google Search. Daniella is passionate about frogs and put her digital marketing skills and teaching experience to good use by creating these helpful resources to encourage better education, understanding, and care for frogs.