Discoveries in disguise
This toad was discovered in the late 1940s and named in 1953. Official estimates are that just 3,000 – 4,000 adult Houston toads are left in the world. They move by making short hops. Since they cannot usually outrun their predators such as snakes, turtles, large birds, raccoons, and other frogs, the toads have developed coloration and rough skin to camouflage themselves. Also, their skin secretes chemicals that are distasteful, and sometimes poisonous, to predators. In addition to protecting the Houston toad from being eaten, some of these chemicals have proven useful medicines to treat heart and nervous disorders in humans.
Trouble in the big city
In 1970, the Houston toad was federally listed as an endangered species. It was extirpated from the Houston, Texas area by the 1960s, likely coincident with the severe drought of the 1950s and concurrent development of its forested habitat in that region. Though the largest and most immediate threat is habitat loss, the reduced toad populations are also vulnerable to automobiles, predators, pesticides and drought.