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What's the Difference Between Frogs and Toads?

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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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Courtesy of The National Aviary
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Animals
Watch This Live Stream to See Two Rare Penguin Chicks Hatch From Their Eggs
Courtesy of The National Aviary
Courtesy of The National Aviary

Bringing an African penguin chick into the world is an involved process, with both penguin parents taking turns incubating the egg. Now, over a month since they were laid, two penguin eggs at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are ready to hatch. As Gizmodo reports, the baby birds will make their grand debut live for the world to see on the zoo's website.

The live stream follows couple Sidney and Bette in their nest, waiting for their young to emerge. The first egg was laid November 7 and is expected to hatch between December 14 and 18. The second, laid November 11, should hatch between December 18 and 22.

"We are thrilled to give the public this inside view of the arrival of these rare chicks," National Aviary executive director Cheryl Tracy said in a statement. "This is an important opportunity to raise awareness of a critically endangered species that is in rapid decline in the wild, and to learn about the work that the National Aviary is doing to care for and propagate African penguins."

African penguins are endangered, with less than 25,000 pairs left in the wild today. The National Aviary, the only independent indoor nonprofit aviary in the U.S., works to conserve threatened populations and raise awareness of them with bird breeding programs and educational campaigns.

After Sidney and Bette's new chicks are born, they will care for them in the nest for their first three weeks of life. The two penguins are parenting pros at this point: The monogamous couple has already hatched and raised three sets of chicks together.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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