Mild-mannered Cane Toad Transforms Into BatToad

Cane toad
“Da-da-da-da-da-da, BatToad!” No, it’s not some hybrid SciFi superhero of the toad world you see in the photo; it’s an actual cane toad or Bufo marinus, snapped where the toad lives, in a rainforest of Peru, by a park ranger who just happened to be in the right place at the right time. But, he might seem like a superhero to his own species, as usually, it’s the other way around, that a bat will eat a toad.

How did the toad catch the bat in the first place?

Park ranger Yufani Olaya, who is stationed at the Cerros de Amotape national park, saw this amazing toad/bat interaction taking place right before his very eyes.

Olaya has a theory about what happened, based upon the voracious nature of the cane toad combined with what is likely a very rare occurrence, and one that is even more rare for a human to witness.

When Olaya first saw the cane toad, it was sitting, mouth open, being constantly vigilant in its pursuit of whatever it can catch and manage to get down its gullet, as they are not very picky eaters.

The cane toad was probably hoping to catch a yummy insect, or maybe a small mouse. The bat, on the other hand — wing? — was likely scanning the rainforest floor, also trying to locate a snack to chow down on.

Then, all of a sudden, the park ranger was stunned to see the toad lunge forward at just the right time, and it locked its jaws down on the hapless flying mammal that veered into its territory.

As you can see from the photo, the cane toad wasn’t able to gobble the entire bat, as it was too big. Olaya took the photograph with the bat’s wings and tail out of the toad’s maw, making it appear to be some odd biological freak of nature.

If the animal had been smaller, more like a cane toad’s usual fare  of the occasional millipede or dragonfly, that would probably have been the end of the insect.

But, in the case of the BatToad, or ToadBat, the cane toad relinquished its snack after a few moments, and the bat was able to shake off its odd encounter and fly away as if nothing had happened to it.  The bat likely did not want to be made into fast food for the toad, and it lived on, lesson learned: don’t get anywhere within striking distance of a hungry cane toad.

It would have been very difficult for the toad to have digested the bat, if it had been able to swallow it. Toads don’t have teeth, so it would have had to have eaten the mammal whole.

Also, the cane toad’s jaws aren’t made to be able to crush bones, at least not bigger ones, like those of the bat. The toad could have been attempting to reposition its jaws, to swallow the bat, when the mammal found a way to wriggle free and escape.

Then, if the cane toad had been able to swallow the bat, the next problem the amphibian would have faced would be to digest the mammal and excrete it without suffering any internal injuries to itself.

Toads have been known to wait outside of caves and catch any bat unlucky enough to fly within hopping distance, though the park ranger had never before seen a cane toad catching and eating a bat before.

It could be, even then, that the toads are really after insects that live within the caves, and which are also the prey of the bats.

Fringe-lipped bats are one of the many species of bats which eat toads. They will listen for the sounds which toads or frogs make when they try to attract a mate, or rustling noises when the toads or frogs are moving through leaves; then, the bats will It appears, every once in awhile, that the toads sometimes will turn the tables on the bats, and make them their prey.

You might not find the photo easy to, er, digest, but it hasn’t been faked or photoshopped. The park ranger  just happened to be in the right place at the right time to capture the photo which he took, and document this rare and dramatic moment in the lives of both the toad and the bat.

 

Written by: Douglas Cobb

 

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