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What's the Difference Between Frogs and Toads?

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iStock

If you’ve thought about the frog versus toad question at all, you’ve probably assumed that these amphibians are two very different animals. After all, they have different kinds of skin—dry and pebbly for toads, and moist and smooth for frogs—and prefer different habitats: frogs like water, but toads prefer land. Frogs have slim bodies and long legs, and jump to get around; toads have short forelimbs and hop or walk. Frogs lay their eggs in clusters, and toads (generally) lay their eggs in long chains. Toads also have big glands behind their eyes, called paratoid glands, which produce poison.

So you might be surprised to find out that toads belong to the order Anura, and are actually a subset of frogs. “All toads are frogs, but not all frogs are toads,” says Christopher Raxworthy, Associate Curator of Herpetology at the American Museum of Natural History. “In popular use, toad seems to be used to refer to any frog that has a dry warty skin and short legs.”

There is a group scientists call true toads, which belong to the family Bufonidae, which consists of 50 genera and nearly 600 species, native to all continents except Antarctica and Australia (the cane toad, currently marching its way across Australia, was brought there in the 1930s). “They are recognized as a natural group based on DNA and skeletal characters,” Raxworthy says. For example, true toads don’t have any teeth, and the skin on the head is typically ossified to the skull.

But even in that group, the distinction between toad and frog isn’t necessarily clear. “Many have a dry warty skin, but not all,” Raxworthy says. If you saw a member of the genus Atelopus, you’d probably assume it was a regular frog—but these colorful amphibians, which hail from Central and South America, are also true toads.

Male Atelopus certus. Brian Gratwicke via Wikimedia Commons // CC By 2.0

And any number of frogs get called toads, even though they actually aren’t, like those in the Bombinatoridae family. Nature: It’s complicated!

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Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
How a Hairdresser Found a Way to Fight Oil Spills With Hair Clippings
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images
Mark Ralston, AFP/Getty Images

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker made global news in 1989 when it dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the waters off Alaska's coast. As experts were figuring out the best ways to handle the ecological disaster, a hairdresser from Alabama named Phil McCroy was tinkering with ideas of his own. His solution, a stocking stuffed with hair clippings, was an early version of a clean-up method that's used at real oil spill sites today, according to Vox.

Hair booms are sock-like tubes stuffed with recycled hair, fur, and wool clippings. Hair naturally soaks up oil; most of the time it's sebum, an oil secreted from our sebaceous glands, but it will attract crude oil as well. When hair booms are dragged through waters slicked with oil, they sop up all of that pollution in a way that's gentle on the environment.

The same properties that make hair a great clean-up tool at spills are also what make animals vulnerable. Marine life that depends on clean fur to stay warm can die if their coats are stained with oil that's hard to wash off. Footage of an otter covered in oil was actually what inspired Phil McCroy to come up with his hair-based invention.

Check out the full story from Vox in the video below.

[h/t Vox]

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Bristly
A New Chew Toy Will Help Your Dog Brush Its Own Teeth
Bristly
Bristly

Few pet owners are willing to sit down and brush their pet's teeth on a regular basis. (Most of us can barely convince ourselves to floss our own teeth, after all.) Even fewer pets are willing to sit calmly and let it happen. But pet dental care matters: I’ve personally spent more than $1000 in the last few years dealing with the fact that my cat’s teeth are rotting out of her head.

For dog owners struggling to brush poor Fido’s teeth, there’s a slightly better option. Bristly, a product currently being funded on Kickstarter, is a chew toy that acts as a toothbrush. The rubber stick, which can be slathered with doggie toothpaste, is outfitted with bristles that brush your dog’s teeth as it plays.

A French bulldog chews on a Bristly toy.
Bristly

Designed so your dog can use it without you lifting a finger, it’s shaped like a little pogo stick, with a flattened base that allows dogs to stabilize it with their paws as they hack at the bristled stick with their teeth. The bristles are coated in a meat flavoring to encourage dogs to chew.

An estimated 80 percent of dogs over the age of 3 have some kind of dental disease, so the chances that your dog could use some extra dental attention is very high. In addition to staving off expensive vet bills, brushing your dog's teeth can improve their smelly breath.

Bristly comes in three sizes as well as in a heavy-duty version made for dogs who are prone to ripping through anything they can get their jaws around. A Bristly stick costs $29 and is scheduled to start shipping in October. Get it here.

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