The weirdest toad you will see this year

by Matthew Cobb

Tw**ted by @phil_torres: this bizarre Peruvian toad. Full explanation, link and credit below the fold.

BatToad
So what’s going on? See if you can work it out. Then scroll down…
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This is a cane toad, and it has just eaten a bat. Phil explains:
This photo was taken at a remote guard station in Peru by park ranger Yufani Olaya at Cerros de Amotape National Park. He gave us permission to write about the photo, but we’re waiting to hear back from him on more details about where exactly he found it, and how he thinks a ground-dwelling toad could have captured a bat.
We’re unsure how common this is, but we do know that this is probably the first photographed record of a cane toad feeding on a bat.  Cane toads are notoriously opportunistic feeders, and while they are native to South America this trait has made them infamously invasive in places like Australia.Without more information about this photo it can be difficult to guess how a ground-dwelling toad and a flying bat could ever cross paths, unless the bat had fallen.

My best guess? I have seen bats and toads use similar locations in the rainforest, just not at the same time. Both are known to use small holes along streamsides, so it’s possible this bat decided to roost in a hole that was inhabited by a hungry toad, which after some difficulty swallowing took a walk to get its photo taken by Olaya.

Here in the Tambopata rainforest we often run across cane toads- but from now on we’ll keep an extra close eye out for what’s in their mouths.

21 Comments

  1. BilBy
    Posted September 23, 2013 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    For many amphibians, if you can force it in your stomach somehow, it’s food. There’s an African Giant bullfrog specimen in a jar at the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria that swallowed something like 17 baby rinkhals (a type of cobra) in one go.

  2. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted September 23, 2013 at 3:14 am | Permalink

    Yep, I got it.

    Pity, I like bats.

    • NMcC
      Posted September 23, 2013 at 3:38 am | Permalink

      Huh! I didn’t. I thought the question was: ‘Why has this toad evolved metal blinkers?’

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 5:03 am | Permalink

        Yes, they do look curiously like some sort of metal bracket, don’t they? That was my first thought, till I figured it must be something animate.

    • Posted September 23, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      Ditto. Curious purple colour!

  3. Posted September 23, 2013 at 3:42 am | Permalink

    Took me a moment, then I got it. The bat seems rather hairless over its limb bones, so it might be a baby left by its mother in a burrow.

  4. Jim Knight
    Posted September 23, 2013 at 4:17 am | Permalink

    Marine toads will eat anything they can get in their mouths, and they get large enough to take a great many other taxa. The bat appears to be some sort of free-tailed molossid?

    It would be interesting to develop a list of all the various food types that Chaunus marinus has been recorded as having taken…

  5. gravityfly
    Posted September 23, 2013 at 4:19 am | Permalink

    It’s a blue bat!

    • NMcC
      Posted September 23, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink

      I’m not surprised. Stuffed down a toad’s throat, you’d be a bit sad too.

  6. John Scanlon, FCD
    Posted September 23, 2013 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    A lot of insectivorous bats forage close to ground level, either in pursuit of flying insects (wherever they may fly) or gleaning from surfaces, so they could run into a toad during normal actity. (Also Vampire bats, and the New Zealand emballonurids, forage actively on the ground, but this isn’t one of them.)
    Based on limited data, I guess this particular bat is likely a Mexican Free-tail (because… the tail, and it’s the most abundant and widespread bat in the Americas), and may be either a juvenile that fell off a cave wall (or out of a tree hollow or the wall of a house) or an adult caught on the ground near the entrance to a roost cave, like the mobs of a related species seen here.

    • Posted September 25, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

      Fully agree – definitely a free-tailed bat (family Molossidae; shown by the tail, which is not enclosed by a membrane, and the particular way the 3rd digit is folded).

      Several free-tailed bats (such as Molossus sp.) roost in roofs of buildings, and the picture seems to show a concrete floor, so most likely this happened when the bat was exiting its roost.

      These bats are fast flyers, which comes at the cost of reduced manoeuvrability. They further require a certain height of their roost site to gain sufficient speed and lift. Sometimes things go wrong and they crash-land on the ground below the roost, and I would reckon that in this case it happened right in front of the toad…

      Phil Torres’ blog has a link to a paper reporting a very similar case:
      http://www.biotemas.ufsc.br/volumes/pdf/volume232/215a218Final.pdf

  7. Posted September 23, 2013 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    Some bats are able to feed on the ground, like the Pallid Bat (not the same range as the toad, but you get the idea):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pallid_bat

    That photo offers great design inspiration for the companies that make things out of cane toad leather…

  8. Grania Spingies
    Posted September 23, 2013 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    I got it too, but it also manages to look like one of those indefatigable Pokemon :-)

  9. teacupoftheapocalypse
    Posted September 23, 2013 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    The whole of Star Wars is true, except everything is very much smaller than you might imagine (like the G’Gugvuntts and Vl’hurgs, but slightly less miniature).

    The toad has just swallowed Darth Vader’s TIE fighter.

  10. Anthony Torres Ruest
    Posted September 23, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    That’s a great picture. Visit Perú!

  11. Posted September 23, 2013 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    It is not all that uncommon for bats to strike ceiling fans and fall to the ground disabled. I’ve seen this several times at a field station in Costa Rica. If this happened on a porch or other room with access by toads, I can readily see them gobbling up the wounded bat. The toad in the photo appears to be sitting on concrete, so it is in or near a human built structure.

  12. Posted September 23, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    The answer is now in: flying close to the ground (credit to John Scanlon!):

    We finally got in touch with Olaya. As was suggested by a John Scanlon in a comment on a repost of this story on Why Evolution Is True, it appears the bat was flying a bit too close to the ground. Many bats will feed on insects either flying near the ground, or gleaning insects that are actually on the ground (pallid bats in the US are a great example of the latter).

    See the full update at Phil Torres’s Rainforest Expeditions site.

  13. Posted September 23, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    he has a bat in his mouth…great shot! am i right? ~ amy

  14. Posted September 23, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    My first though was to contact Ray Comfort. The much sought after proof of species-level evolution, the toadabat, has finally been discovered!

  15. marksolock
    Posted September 23, 2013 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

  16. Diane G.
    Posted September 27, 2013 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    What a great shot!

    I got it right away. Really fun how symmetrically the bat is projecting out of the toad’s mouth. Guess that can happen when you swallow something head-first.


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