Mexican Burrowing Toad Facts: They Live a Isolated Life in the Ground

The Mexican burrowing toad is one of the strangest amphibians. They spend most of their lives underground with distinguished characteristics which are different from that of any other frogs and toads. Read on to learn more facts about these fascinating amphibians.

Mexican burrowing toad
Scientific name: Rhinophrynus dorsalis
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Genus: Rhinophrynus

1. They have unappealing looks

The Mexican burrowing toad is a solitary member of the Rhinophrynidae family. Its look is so different that it cannot be mistaken for any other species. It features a brightly colored body that is coated with smooth, wet, baggy, and wrinkled skin.

It is rich brown to near black in tone. On its back, there’s a line that runs down the center and many blotches and dots around it. These patterns have reddish-orange colorations. The undersides of frogs are normally gray to deep brown hue, with scarce or no markings.

The Mexican burrowing toad has a flat body that is as wide as its length. They are about 2.5 – 3.25 inches (6 – 8 cm) in length. Males are smaller than females.

These toads have a trapezoidal and tiny head, and a pointy snout coated with tubercles. Compared to their body size, their eyes are quite small with vertical pupils. They are toothless and have bumps on their snout that seem to function as a shield.

Cre: on pic

Although Mexican burrowing toads’ legs are short, they are quite strong. With these legs, the species can easily dig into the ground. On the front limbs, there is simply a trace of webbing between adjacent digits. The webbing on the back food is substantial.

Another adaptation that helps the toads suit the underground lifestyle is short horny appendages that resemble shovels on their feet. These appendages are strengthened with keratin, the same strong material that makes our nails. Thanks to these features, they can excavate efficiently.

To discover more about Bizzare amphibians, you may read some of the posts below:

2. Natural habitat

The Mexican burrowing toad is native to North and Central America. They live in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Belize, Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, and El Salvador. In the US, these creatures are only found in southern Texas.

The Mexican burrowing toad lives in a wide range of coastal settings. They can be found in lowland habitats such as tropical forests, shrublands, meadows, savannas, wetlands, fields, gardens, and farms at heights of up to 500 meters above sea level. They frequently reside in seasonal floodplains.

They inhabit locations with soft, sandy soil that allows them to dig easily.

3. They have a reclusive life

Mexican burrowing toads are expert burrowers, as the name implies. With powerful rear legs with tubercles, they can do the digging jog in the ground easily. When digging, they go backward. They dig a tunnel and spend most of their life there. They only show up on the ground after heavy rains.

The toads can endure long periods of dryness within their underground tunnel. It has been stated that a captive individual lived for 18 months without food.

These species are nocturnal, meaning most of them are active at night.

Mexican burrowing toad call is as striking as their look. The call is high-pitched and powerful, with a whoooa sound. Every note lasts approximately 1.4 seconds and every minute it is replayed 15 to 20 times. The Maya called this creature the uo, which matches their call.



When the toads produce their unique call, their body inflates like a balloon, covering the head and limbs. Their skin tightens and shines in this position.

When a predator comes close, the Mexican burrowing toad swallows air to expand its body. This makes it more difficult for the predator to pull the toad from its tunnel.

4. Their food is underground

Mexican burrowing toads are carnivorous. They specialize in eating ants and termites. They also eat a variety of different insects and invertebrates.

For eating these little insects, these toads have many physical adaptations. One of the most extraordinary adaptations of them is their tongue which is unusual compared to other anuran species.

A Mexican burrowing toad is about to burrow

Most frogs will open their mouths and flip their tongues out to grab prey. Mexican burrowing toads, however, don’t do this. Instead of that, their tongues protrude right out the front of the mouth. In addition, their tongue is quite long, which is very helpful in catching prey.

These Mexican frogs will press their head against the side of an ant or termite colony. Then, they insert their long tongue into the nest, grasp the prey, and then pull the tongue back. This kind of tongue is only found in the Mexican burrowing frog.

5. They have a short mating season

The Mexican burrowing toad only emerges to the surface after periods of heavy rain. This is also their mating season. This can happen at any time of year, although it commonly happens during the start of the rainy season in July. Like other frog and toad species, they need water to reproduce.

Males use their vocal sacs to intensify their calls in order to woo females. To create harmonic ‘choruses’, these males gather together in great numbers. They often perform in or around temporary water bodies, like flooded meadows or roadside ditches. These species can go for 1 mile (1.6 km) just to look for a proper location.

Two Mexican burrowing toads are mating

After considering, the female will choose her favorite partner. The male then hugs the female and wraps his arms around her waist (inguinal amplexus). The breeding can occur on the water’s surface or on the ground near the water.

When the mating finishes, the male goes back to his tunnel, while the female will find a watery place to lay eggs. In one season, every female can lay thousands of eggs either in one brood or throughout numerous clutches. At this time, her job is done! She will leave and burrow back in the ground. Her eggs now are on their own.

Fertilized eggs settle to the bottom and they don’t need too much time to hatch (just a few days). These tadpoles (larvae) congregate in shoals of 50 to several hundred larvae.

They expand their body when there’s a close predator

These tadpoles have large, flat heads with tiny eyes and broad mouths. They come in a deep grey to black body with a silver glossy underbelly. The length of their tail is nearly 1.5 times longer than their body’s length.

They grow rapidly and transition into adults in 1 to 3 months. Food availability may influence their growth rate. The main food of the larvae is phytoplankton which is microscopic organisms in the water.

6. Conservation status

In IUCN, the Mexican burrowing toad is classified as a ‘Least Concern’ species. Because they live underground, it’s very hard to estimate their population. Nevertheless, the species can be found in a variety of environments. It is widespread and locally plentiful in many places in Mexico and Central America.


  • Mexican Burrowing Toad Facts –
  • Mexican Burrowing –

Animal Facts 276

We are passionate animal enthusiasts with over a decade of experience studying animals. With a degree in zoology and conservation biology, we've contributed to various research and conservation projects. We're excited to bring you engaging content that highlights the wonders of the animal kingdom. We aim to inspire others to appreciate and protect wildlife through informative content grounded in expertise and passion. Join us as we delve into the captivating world of animals and discover the incredible stories they have to tell.

1 thought on “Mexican Burrowing Toad Facts: They Live a Isolated Life in the Ground”

  1. Hi, Taylor

    Mexican burrowing toads are not commonly kept as pets. They have specific habitat requirements and specialized burrowing behaviors that can be challenging to replicate in captivity. Additionally, they are a protected species in Mexico, and it may be illegal to keep them as pets without proper permits or licenses. It is best to appreciate these toads in their natural habitats or learn about them through educational resources. Hope this helps you


Leave a Comment