A mating pair of gulf coast toads (Incilius nebulifer) rests a few meters from a pond in central Texas. When I approached, the male (top) squeezed the female (bottom), closing its eyes in a firm effort to maintain amplexus. Meanwhile, the female cowered low into the grasses.
Gulf coast toads are one of many amphibians in which toe vibration has been observed while hunting for arthropod prey. This cool behavior has been filmed and studied in gulf coast toads, revealing that toads exhibiting toe vibrations were more successful at prey capture (in this study, woodlice), due to a decrease in prey movement and often times a change in direction towards the toad predator. The behavioral data suggest that toe vibration likely functions in luring arthropods towards the stimulus. However, the specificity of toe vibrations remains to be determined, e.g. whether they mimic the vibration signatures of particular arthropods to attract conspecifics, or instead imitate nondescript tiny arthropods to attract larger predatory ones. To get at these questions, it would be useful to see the full breadth of variation in toe vibrations across amphibians when the data becomes available.
More photos of Temple toads coming soon!