Anaxyrus houstonensis - (Sanders, 1953)
Houston Toad
Other English Common Names: Houston toad
Synonym(s): Bufo houstonensis Sanders, 1953
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Anaxyrus houstonensis (Sanders, 1953) (TSN 773522)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.103748
Element Code: AAABB01090
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Amphibians - Frogs and Toads
Image 12042

Public Domain

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Amphibia Anura Bufonidae Anaxyrus
Genus Size: D - Medium to large genus (21+ species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Frost, D. R. 1985. Amphibian species of the world. A taxonomic and geographical reference. Allen Press, Inc., and The Association of Systematics Collections, Lawrence, Kansas. v + 732 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B85FRO01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Bufo houstonensis
Taxonomic Comments: Treated as a subspecies of B. americanus in older literature. Natural hybridization with B. valliceps and with B. woodhousii has been recorded (Brown 1973). A study of the taxonomic relationship between B. houstonensis and B. americanus charlesmithi was underway in 1990 (USFWS 1990).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G1
Global Status Last Reviewed: 29Mar2002
Global Status Last Changed: 15Oct2001
Rounded Global Status: G1 - Critically Imperiled
Reasons: Small range in Texas; populations are few, small, and declining, due mainly to habitat destruction.
Nation: United States
National Status: N1 (05Nov1996)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Texas (S1)

Other Statuses

U.S. Endangered Species Act (USESA): LE: Listed endangered (13Oct1970)
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lead Region: R2 - Southwest
IUCN Red List Category: EN - Endangered

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 1000-5000 square km (about 400-2000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Historically, this toad ranged across the central coastal region of Texas. Houston toads disappeared from the Houston area (Harris, Fort Bend and Liberty counties) during the 1960s following an extended drought and the rapid urban expansion of the city of Houston. Although this species has been found in nine additional counties (Austin, Bastrop, Burleson, Colorado, Lavaca, Lee, Leon, Milam, Robertson) as recently as the 1990s, several of these populations have not been seen since they were first discovered (recorded in Lee County in 2001; Gaston et al. 2001). Of the few remaining populations, the largest is in Bastrop County.

Area of Occupancy: 501-12,500 4-km2 grid cells
Area of Occupancy Comments:  

Number of Occurrences: 1 - 20
Number of Occurrences Comments: Difficult to specify number, but relatively few occurrences.

Population Size: 1000 - 2500 individuals
Population Size Comments: At least 2000 adults occur in Bastrop County; unknown numbers in 7 other counties (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/nature/endang/htoad.htm). Fairly common in the vicinity of a few ponds (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999).

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Very few to few (1-12)

Overall Threat Impact: High
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Habitat conversion poses the most serious threat to the Houston toad. Several populations were eliminated with the expansion of Houston, and the largest remaining population in Bastrop County is also under intense and immediate threat from urban development.

Many Houston toads are killed each year by automobiles. Roadway mortality will increase as human populations continue to increase within the species¿ habitat and as the habitat continues to be dissected by more roads. Road construction further isolates populations and disrupts or prevents the movement of individual toads between populations. This movement of toads is necessary to maintain gene flow, and thus genetic diversity, and to supplement small or declining local populations. It is possible to build roads with underpasses or other structures that allow toads and other wildlife to pass safely beneath the roads.

While converting woodlands to pastures or plowed fields destroys Houston toad habitat and favors the proliferation of other toad species, certain agricultural practices can be beneficial to Houston toads. These include maintaining low to moderate numbers of livestock to avoid overgrazing, protecting pond habitat from livestock and predatory fishes, planting native bunchgrasses instead of sod-forming grasses, such as Bermuda grass, which are difficult for the toads to move through, and conserving large blocks of woodlands.

Certain forestry practices may benefit the Houston toad, while others, such as clearcutting, are harmful. Thinning and burning have been shown to benefit some species of amphibians and reptiles by opening up the forest canopy and allowing more sunlight to reach the forest floor. This practice encourages the growth of vegetation and, in turn, increases insect numbers. This may be beneficial to the Houston toad.

Other threats that often appear in conjunction with the factors outlined above include drought and the presence of fire ants, an unwelcome species from Brazil. Fire ants have been observed preying on toadlets as they leave their breeding pond. Fire ants thrive in open, sunny areas where the soil has been disturbed and woody vegetation uprooted, as in agricultural fields and urban areas. Protecting large forested areas is one of the most effective deterrents to fire ants. Where fire ant control with pesticides is necessary, mounds should be treated individually, rather than broadcasting the chemicals, to avoid impacting other invertebrates that the Houston toad eats.

This information is from a USFWS website: http://ifw2es.fws.gov/HoustonToad.

Short-term Trend: Decline of 10-50%
Short-term Trend Comments: Recent trend analyses suggest that Houston toads are declining in Bastrop State Park, which lies near the center of its critical habitat in Bastrop County.

Long-term Trend: Decline of 50-90%
Long-term Trend Comments: This species is believed to have undergone a substantial decline in range extent, area of occupnacy, population size, and habitat qunatity and quality.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Moderate to broad.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Protection Needs: Protect several EOs in widespread areas to preserve genetic diversity of population.

Distribution
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Global Range: (1000-5000 square km (about 400-2000 square miles)) Historically, this toad ranged across the central coastal region of Texas. Houston toads disappeared from the Houston area (Harris, Fort Bend and Liberty counties) during the 1960s following an extended drought and the rapid urban expansion of the city of Houston. Although this species has been found in nine additional counties (Austin, Bastrop, Burleson, Colorado, Lavaca, Lee, Leon, Milam, Robertson) as recently as the 1990s, several of these populations have not been seen since they were first discovered (recorded in Lee County in 2001; Gaston et al. 2001). Of the few remaining populations, the largest is in Bastrop County.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: endemic to a single state or province

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States TX

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: IUCN, Conservation International, NatureServe, and collaborators, 2004


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
TX Austin (48015), Bastrop (48021), Brazos (48041)*, Burleson (48051), Colorado (48089), Fort Bend (48157), Freestone (48161), Grimes (48185)*, Harris (48201)*, Lavaca (48285), Lee (48287), Leon (48289), Liberty (48291)*, Milam (48331), Robertson (48395)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
12 Lower Trinity-Tehuacana (12030201)+, Lower Trinity (12030203)+*, Buffalo-San Jacinto (12040104)+*, West Galveston Bay (12040204)+, Austin-Oyster (12040205)+, Lower Brazos-Little Brazos (12070101)+, Yegua (12070102)+, Navasota (12070103)+, Lower Brazos (12070104)+, Lower Colorado-Cummins (12090301)+, Lower Colorado (12090302)+, San Bernard (12090401)+, Navidad (12100102)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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Basic Description: A 2- to 3-inch toad with (usually) a light middorsal stripe.
Reproduction Comments: Most breeding occurs February-April, when minimum air temperature is above 14 C; breeding reported as late as June. Larvae hatch in 4-7 days, metamorphose in 3-9 weeks, depending on water temperature. Males sexually mature in 1 year, females possibly in 2 years. See Jacobson (1989).
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Migrates between breeding and nonbreeding habitats.
Palustrine Habitat(s): TEMPORARY POOL
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest - Conifer, Forest - Hardwood, Grassland/herbaceous, Woodland - Conifer, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic, Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: Restricted to areas with soft sandy soils; pine forest, mixed deciduous forest, coastal prairie. Extant populations occur in sandy forested areas with pine. When inactive, occupies burrows in soil or seeks refuge in leaf litter or under objects.

Eggs and larvae develop in shallow water of roadside ditches, temporary ponds in residential areas and pastures, and other seasonally flooded low spots; for successful breeding, water must persist for at least 60 days.

Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Food Comments: Metamorphosed toads probably eat various small terrestrial arthropods. Larvae eat suspended material, organic debris, algae, and plant tissue.
Adult Phenology: Circadian, Hibernates/aestivates
Immature Phenology: Circadian, Hibernates/aestivates
Phenology Comments: Inactive during hot, dry season and during coldest months.
Colonial Breeder: Y
Length: 8 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Monitoring Requirements: Sporatic activity and secretive behavior make it relatively difficult to find new populations or to relocate previously identified ones (Matthews and Moseley 1990).
Management Research Needs: Research is urgently needed to determine the status of Houston toad populations outside of Bastrop County and promote conservation efforts in these areas. Research is also critical to determine which management practices are most conducive to the Houston toad and the ecosystem on which it depends.
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Bufonid Toads

Use Class: Not applicable
Subtype(s): Breeding Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals (including larvae or eggs) in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: Busy major highway such that toads rarely if ever cross successfully; roads with nonpermeable barriers to toad movement; urbanized areas dominated by buildings and pavement.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Opportunistic observations of various toad species in lowland habitats indicate regular movements of up to at least several hundred meters from the closest known breeding site (G. Hammerson, pers. obs.). Sweet (1993) recorded movements of up to 1 km in Bufo californicus. In defining critical habitat for B. californicus, USFWS (2000) included breeding streams and upland areas within a 25-m elevational range of each essential stream reach and no more than 1.5 km away from the stream. In northwestern Utah, Thompson (2004) recorded movements of Bufo boreas of up to 5 km across upland habitat between two springs during the summer-fall season. Another toad moved 1.3 km between May of one year and May of the next year; the following June it was back at the original breeding location (Thompson 2004). Most studies of toad movements have not employed radiotelemetry and were not designed to detect long-range movements or dispersal.

The separation distance for unsuitable habitat reflects the nominal minimum value of 1 km. The separation distance for suitable habitat reflects the good vagility of toads, their ability to utilize ephemeral or newly created breeding sites, and the consequent likely low probability that two occupied locations separated by less than several kilometers of suitable habitat would represent truly independent populations over the long term.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .5 km
Date: 27Apr2005
Author: Hammerson, G.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 03May2011
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Wahl, R., J. Griffin, G. Hammerson, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 03Apr1995
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • BLAIR, W. F. 1963. INTRAGROUP GENETIC COMPATIBILITY IN THE BUFO AMERICANUS SPECIES GROUP OF TOADS; TX. J. SCI. 15:15-34.

  • BROWN, LAUREN E., 1971. NATURAL HYBRIDIZATION AND TREND TOWARD EXTINCTION IN SOME RELICT TEXAS TOAD POPULATIONS. SOUTHWESTERN NATURALIST 16(2):185-199.

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  • Bury, R. B., C. K. Dodd, Jr., and G. M. Fellers. 1980. Conservation of the Amphibia of the United States: a review. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C., Resource Publication 134. 34 pp.

  • Campbell, L. 1995. Endangered and Threatened Animals of Texas: Their Life History and Management. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Endangered Resources Branch, Austin, Texas. ix + 129 pp.

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  • Dixon, James R., N. O. Dronen, J. C. Godwin, and M. A. Simmons. 1990. The amphibians, reptiles, and mammals of Bastrop and Buescher State Parks: With emphasis on the Houston toad (Bufo houstonensis) and the short-tailed shrew (Blarina sp.), February 1990 to August 1990. Prepared for Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept. 79 pp.

  • Dodd, C. K., and R. A. Seigel. 1991. Relocation, repatriation, and translocation of amphibians and reptiles: are they conservation strategies that work? Herpetologica 47:336-350.

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