South America


Rain forest and flooded forest

An amazing toad

The Surinam toad is a surprise from the first glance. Motionless in the water, you’d think it was a leaf or a rock, and that’s the idea! Its body is flat, its head is triangular, and its nostrils are at the end of two narrow tubes on its snout. The toad’s skin is pointy, rough, and colored a mottled brown, tan, or olive. Each finger on its forelimbs has a tiny, star-shaped tip, leading to the animal’s other name: star-fingered toad. Yet despite its unique appearance, the Surinam toad’s reproductive strategy is what sets this amphibian apart. It’s freaky, but amazing, too!

Life in the mud

As weird as it looks, the Surinam toad is perfectly camouflaged to live an aquatic life on muddy river bottoms in rain forest and flooded forest areas in South America. It looks like a lump of leaf litter rather than an animal! The Surinam toad can measure between 4 and 8 inches long, but it doesn’t look much like a meal, so predators may pass it by.

The Surinam toad is considered an aquatic frog, but its rough skin earned it the “toad” moniker.
Newly hatched Surinam toads develop under the skin of their mother’s back.

The San Diego Zoo received its first Surinam toads in 2001. Today, we have a small group of this fascinating amphibian for Zoo guests to admire in our new Reptile Walk, which opened in July 2012. Come see these amazing toads for yourself!

As long as there are rain forests and swampy forests in South America, the Surinam toad will be fine. However, like many rain forest dwellers, the toad could be wiped out as humans continue logging and farming in these areas.