The eastern narrow-mouthed toad is an unusual, plump little amphibian that is seldom seen. There is a fold of skin behind its narrow, pointed head. The legs are short. There is no tympanum (external eardum) on the head and no webbing between the toes. Overall color is tan, brown, gray, or reddish brown. The back has a pattern that looks like a long, dark wedge pointing toward the head. This wedge is bordered by a wide stripe of a lighter color that runs along the side. Below that is a dark stripe running from the snout to the side of the hind legs. These patterns are often obscured by the presence of numerous small dark brown or black markings. The belly is heavily mottled with dark gray. Call is a bleating, nasal baaaa, which sounds like a lamb.
Similar species: The range of the western narrow-mouthed toad overlaps with this species in western Missouri. It has a lighter color and lacks prominent markings on the back. Also, its call is quite different, being a short, high peel followed by a nasal buzz.
Length (snout to vent): ⅞ to 1¼ inches.
Throughout most of the southern half of the state.
Habitat and Conservation
Like other narrow-mouthed toads, this species burrows underground, spending most of its time in loose, damp soil under flat rocks, logs, board, or other objects. It prefers habitats where shelter and moist soil are available, usually in the vicinity of ponds, swamps, and streams or near some large-river floodplains. In the Ozarks, however, they also occur under flat rocks in rather dry glades and woodlands.
Eastern narrow-mouthed toads primarily eat ants, although they also eat termites and small beetles.
This species breeds in large puddles, temporary pools, and flooded ditches and fields, including rice fields in southeastern Missouri. Males begin chorusing in mid-May, hiding under leaves and other detritus at the water’s edge. Breeding is in summer. Special glands on the male’s belly secrete a gluelike substance that sticks the mating pair together. Up to 850 eggs are laid in a film on the water surface. These hatch within 2 days. The tadpoles develop rapidly, becoming toadlets in 30–60 days.
As predators, these amphibians help control populations of many insects that are pests to humans. Additionally, their beautiful and strange singing adds to the magic of a Missouri evening.
Narrow-mouthed toads are predators that help keep populations of ants and other insects in balance. They, and especially their eggs, tadpoles, and young toadlets, become food for both aquatic and terrestrial predators ranging from water bugs to fish to grackles to raccoons.