Some of my fondest memories from childhood include going to a pond near my grandparent’s house with my older brother and spending the whole sunny summer afternoon catching what my grandma always referred to as “pollywogs” with our bare hands. The slippery, slimy, little buggers were super fast, which made a successful catch incredibly satisfying! My grandma told us these creatures would grow up to be frogs or toads and I don’t think we ever quite believed her. How could something that looks like this, turn into something that looks like that?! It wasn’t until later in life that school taught me that my grandma was right- and that most people in the area referred to “pollywogs” as “tadpoles”.
Now, as the Environmental Education intern at The Gardens, I get to watch area kids have the same experience. For some of them, this is there first opportunity to catch pond critters, and it’s a pretty special thing to be a part of. Within the past week, many of these tadpoles have developed fully functional legs and hopped right out of the pond! Although they are still extremely tiny and it’s very hard to tell, we at The Gardens we are assuming these are toads, rather than frogs, because they are heading towards higher, drier land and it is commonly thought that that is where toads tend to dwell. I have lived in Wisconsin my whole life, and I was always under the impression that frogs were slimy, green, and lived in/near the water; whereas toads were brown, fat, bumpy, and lived on the land.
However, as a Biology student as UWO I have learned that frogs and toads are both of the order Anura, and the common names “frog” and “toad” aren’t really representative of any certain species. As I look into it more, for most people it seems to be of great debate whether the distinction between the two groups is a scientific taxonomic one, or just one made from convenience. For example, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website, there are 12 species of frogs in Wisconsin- and one is the American Toad. If you’d like to learn a bit more about this, check out the link below!
Regardless of their classification, it’s pretty amazing to see these tiny beings fighting the odds and continuing to survive! I would highly recommend stopping by sometime soon to see them for yourself. But careful— watch your step!