7 Facts about Surinam Toads: They Give Birth through the Skin of Their Back

Surinam toads are among the world’s most bizarre amphibians. It may resemble a leaf instead of a toad. This species has a brilliant reproductive strategy that is gonna blow your mind away. Let’s read more Surinam toad facts to find out what makes them so special! 

Surinam toad
Scientific name: Pipa pipa
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Genus: Pipa

1. They look like a leaf

The common Surinam toad is an unusual and intriguing creature. Because of its appearance, you may mistake this toad for a rock or a leaf. Its body can have a tan, brown, or olive color. There is a grey line running from the middle of its throat to the abdomen. However, not all Surinam toads will have this grey-line characteristic.

The toad owns an unusual look with a flat body, a triangular head, and rugged, pointed skin. Its body shape and color give it an ideal camouflage for its aquatic lifestyle on river bottoms. Look at the picture below, the Surinam toad looks seamlessly like a speckled brown leaf. This appearance helps them catch prey and hide from predators.

A Surinam toad is similar a mottled leaf

Its incredibly small eyes are located right on top of its head. Those eyes have no lids at all. As a result, they got the moniker “Stargazer.” Its nostrils are located at the ends of its snout. It features skin flaps or small tentacles on their top lips, chins, and jaw corners. This toad is slippery despite being covered in wart-like lumps.

Its feet are webbed. On each of its fingers, there is a small star-shaped tip with a pressure-sensitive organ. This is why it is also known as a star-fingered toad.

They can grow up to the size of 4 – 8 inches (10 – 20 cm) in length, females are longer than males. When fully mature, this toad species seems larger than other typical frogs. Besides the length, the distinction between the two genders of Surinam toads is a star-shaped bulge at the cloaca of the female.

2. Habitat

Surinam toads live in Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, and other South American countries. Despite living in many places, these toads were called after the country of Suriname.

As aquatic creatures, these toads are usually found in tropical and subtropical lowland forests in marshes, freshwater meadows, and streams.

Surinam toads aren’t true toads. They are close relative to dwarf clawed frogs and African clawed frogs.

3. They live an aquatic lifestyle

The Surinam toads are not poisonous. They spend most of their life underwater. They favor slow-moving aquatic habitats, such as swamps, wetlands, and oxbow lakes with practically motionless water. This helps them detect the motion of the species they feed on better. Too many motions will restrict them from using their sensitive organ.

These toads are calm species that rarely cause trouble. They like to lay on top of one another at the bottom of the water sources and occasionally emerge to the surface every half hour.

They are nocturnal animals that are most active between the hours of sunrise and sunset. During the day, they hide among the foliage and between the leaves underwater. They only move when disturbed or need to take a breath. Underwater, Surinam toads can be excellent athletes. But on the land, they are so clumsy with awkward moves due to their weak vision and physique.  

As aquatic creatures, they can hold their breath for an hour without any problem. However, the juveniles cannot stay very deep at first, they prefer to remain closer to the surface. They progressively learn to swim and dive like fully-grown toads when they grow up.

Surinam toads do not sit like other toads and frogs. They are always spread, with their limbs pointing outwards.

4. They are suction feeders

The star-fingered toads are classified as omnivorous animals. They eat a wide range of foods. Their primary diet includes smaller fishes, crustaceans, worms, and other invertebrates. They will also consume any dead animals they come across.

To get the food, these toads use the ambush strategy. They use the sensitive organ in their finger to locate the prey and motionlessly wait for them. With the mottled leaf-like look, Surinam toads can easily blend into their surroundings. When the time comes, they surprisingly attack them.

Without tongues or teeth, these nocturnal toads put the prey into their enormous mouths and devour it whole, or collect it up with their hands.

5. They have one-of-a-kind reproduction

Surinam toad reproduction is one of the most unusual types of animal reproduction. Their both mating ritual and egg-laying are especially unique. This is quite horrifying for people with trypophobia.

First, the male will attract the female with unusual sounds. They don’t croak like other frogs and toads. They instead make a high, metallic, clicking noise by cracking the hyoid bone in their necks. This sound can be heard underwater.

During the mating season, if two males bump into each other, they will properly fight.

This is how Surinam toads reproduce

When the male gets a ready female, he wraps his arms around her back, creating a position known as amplexus. While interlocked, the couple will flip through the water in arcs. This process can last up to 12 hours until the female delivers 60-100 eggs into the water. The male then fertilizes those eggs.

After fertilizing, the male puts the eggs onto the female’s back, where they adhere to the skin. Over the next few days, the skin grows over the eggs, encasing them in safe, honeycomb-like chambers. In there, the eggs are sheltered and taken care of by the mother. They will go through the hatching, larvae, and tadpole stages safely, away from predators.

After 80 days, the Surinam toad babies are fully formed and ready to get out of the mother’s back. They wriggle and twist until the skin breaks free so that they can leave the compartments. Newly half-inch toadlets swim away. They reach sexual maturity after 18 – 24 months.

Against common myth, the female Surinam toad doesn’t die after giving birth. The female’s back skin (or epithelium) regenerates and stays undamaged until the next breeding season.

Surinam toads are an excellent illustration of the best mother animal. They carry their babies on their backs, care for them, and protect them until they emerge.  

6. They are in danger

According to the IUCN, the Surinam toad is categorized as Least Concern. However, they are now threatened due to habitat destruction and fragmentation as a result of widely spread cultivation.

Humans are now deforesting and encroaching the Amazon rainforest. This makes the toad species have to move their habitat to unusual places like terrestrial areas.

7. They can make good pets

Surinam toads make excellent pets because they have few requirements. They are peaceful species that rarely cause any disruptions.

However, these toads don’t like to be handled. When feeling threatened, they’ll swim away. If you hold them, they can move back and forth and get themselves injured with the harsh movement. So, you need to be very very delicate when handling them.

Cre: Serpa Design

Don’t touch them with your bare hands because chemicals on your hands can harmful to the toads if absorbed through their skin. You should always were gloves and use those gloves for only one individual animal.

They also need clean water, artificial lighting to mimic the natural habitats and suitable food.

To take care of this toad species, you can read the basic guide here. It’ll show you how to set up a tank (the size, water, lighting, substrate, temperature, and decoration), how to feed and handle them.

8. Surinam Toads – Jigsaw Animal Puzzle



I'm so fascinated about animals and want to share with you these amazing, interesting, amusing and beautiful creatures. Hope you enjoy it!

1 thought on “7 Facts about Surinam Toads: They Give Birth through the Skin of Their Back”

  1. The creatures are creepy. I mean it’s meaningful when the toad protects the offspring on their back, but it still looks gross. Even though I’m not trypophobia.


Leave a Comment