Today’s Solutions: February 08, 2023

Toads were always known as terrestrial creatures, spending their time on both land and in water… until now. To ecologists’ surprise, a group of volunteers surveying dormice and bats in trees made the accidental and unexpected discovery that toads also dwell in trees.

How did they discover toads’ tree climbing nature?

Over 50 common toads were found in nest boxes and tree cavities at least 1.5 meters high, with the highest being spotted at three meters above the ground! This inspired a group of scientists from the University and Cambridge to further investigate the amphibians’ tree climbing potential, publishing the largest national study of its kind.

“This is a really exciting finding, and significant for our understanding of the ecology and conservation of common toads – one of the most widespread and abundant European amphibians. We know common toads favor woodlands as foraging and wintering habitat, but it appears their association with trees is much more complex than we had previously thought,” exclaimed Dr. Silviu Petrovan, first author of the paper.

The toads were not found cohabitating with any other species, however, they were seen to be using old nests made by dormice and birds. The data on 50 toads the survey gathered, is comparable to animals known to use trees regularly such as blue tits, equating to toads living in around one in 100 trees in the UK in areas near ponds or lakes. All this suggests these amphibians spend a substantial amount of time up there.

Let’s protect the common toad

As common toad numbers have declined by 68 percent in the last 30 years across the UK, this study is vital for building up conservation data and knowledge. In turn, this allows further understanding of the importance of tree cavities and the woodland ecosystem in the UK – even about species believed to be well-known!

It is currently unclear exactly how the toads are finding these tree cavities not visible from the ground, or how easy it is for them to climb trees, though the researchers will try to tackle these questions in upcoming research. “Future targeted research will enable scientists to better understand the reasons for this tree-climbing behavior in toads, and how woodland management should take it into account,” added Petrovan.

Source study: PLOS ONEWhy link diverse citizen science surveys? Widespread arboreal habits of a terrestrial amphibian revealed by mammalian tree surveys in Britain

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