Episode 185 – Surinam Toad: Back’s Got Baby

“And today we’re talking about a horror pancake. But more on that later.”

The northern region of South America is home to the Amazon Basin, which in turn hosts a wide variety of fascinating rainforest dwellers. With one of the most odd-looking being the surinam toad. What looks at first like a dead frog that’s been crushed by a car is actually just a flat toad that’s sunk to the bottom of a slow-moving river. Like any stressed out parent, she just wants her kids to get off her back. And like most kids, they tend to get under her skin. But that’s just the best way to keep your offspring safe here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.


  • The surinam toad comes pre-smushed so your minivan doesn’t have to do the work. It’s almost completely flat so that it looks like a fallen leaf. 
  • It comes in brown, light brown, and dark brown. 
  • It has tiny beady little eyes

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words Measure Up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We don’t have a new Measure Up intro!

  1. Racoon
  2. Marmot 
  3. Blue Jay
  4. Natterjack toad
  5. A borrower on a tiny rollercoaster


  • 20 cm (8 in)
  • How many surinam toads go into the height of Julianatop, Suriname’s tallest mountain?
  • Hint: The peak is visually interesting with rounded rocky walls rising out of the trees and vegetation. It was named after Juliana, queen of the Netherlands from 1948 to 1980.
  • 6,298 toads. Julianatop is 1,280 metres (4,199 ft).


  • 3.5 to 5.6 ounces
  • How many surinam toads go into the weight of the world’s largest ever pancake?
  • Hint: The pancake was made in 1994 in Rochdale, Manchester, UK. It was made for pancake day. It’s diameter was nearly 50 feet.
  • 18,896.5 toads. The pancake was three metric tons (6613.8 lbs)

Fast Facts

Besides the fact that they enjoy slow moving streams in the forests of South America, everything about this toad is horrible.

They lie on the bottom of streams thinking about nothing at all. When food comes along they gobble it up.

The Surinam toad is a predator with no teeth and no tongue. It hunts prey like invertebrates and small fish by grabbing it with its rubbery little fingers and sliding them into its mouth like Denethor and so many cherry tomatoes. 

They will also scavenge for food, gobbling up any dead things it finds. 

Instead of croaking to attract mates, males will snap the hyoid bones in their throats together to create a clicking sound. 

Major Fact: The Toad Less Travelled

Frogs are oftentimes unusually good parents, at least before the eggs hatch. Unlike fish that normally leave as soon as the eggs are laid.

But laying eggs in the harsh reality of nature is tough since there are lots of critters out there that would love to snack on them – like Baby Yoda.

So the best way to keep your eggs safe is to keep them close – but the surinam toad takes this two steps further.

When mating season starts males will make a sharp clicking sound by snapping two throat bones together (as opposed to frogs that typically chirp or croak to attract mates).

If a female is into a male’s throat bone clicks, she’ll start releasing her eggs near him in small bursts by flipping in the water. The male will fertilize each one, then gently push the eggs onto her back once her flip is done. The eggs will stick there as she repeats the process. Eventually, she’ll lay about 60-100 eggs.

Here’s where it gets nasty.

Over the next several days, the female’s skin will rapidly grow up and around the eggs like a rising tide – so for a little while her back looks like the inside of a pomegranate or the final stage of a resident evil boss.

Eventually, her skin will completely enclose the eggs.

After three or four months, the eggs will hatch. Rather than emerging as tadpoles and going through the typical life cycle of a frog, they do that whole thing inside the mother’s skin and emerge as fully-formed toadlets.

On emergence day, the mother’s back will turn into a honeycomb of holes, each with the snout and fingers of a tiny toad sticking out as they wriggle their way free.

Once they’re on their own, they are developed enough to start life on their own. They’ll start chowing down on and food they can find, even each other. The female then sheds her disgusting hole-riddled carapace and gets ready for the next mating season.

Ending: So float under the radar, stick close to mom, and get out from under your parents’ skin like the Surinam toad here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy