American spadefoot toad
“These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.”
It’s not news when a dog bites a man. However, it is news when a man bites a dog. Likewise, it’s not news when a toad eats a fly. But news about a fly that eats toads should get our attention.
The unusual drama of a toad-eating fly was first discovered in the Arizona desert by Thomas Eisner of Cornell University. He noticed a muddy desert pond that had a large population of spadefoot toads. Looking closer, he noticed that many of the toads were in distress, and some were being pulled down into the mud at the bottom of the pond. A little digging revealed that the predator was the larvae of horseflies.
Further study showed that the larvae burrow into the soft mud until only their head is barely exposed. When an unsuspecting toad wanders by, that larva grabs the toad with its powerful mandibles and pulls it into the mud. The larvae inject their victims with venom and then consume the toad’s body fluids. Eisner says that this drama plays out wherever there are horsefly larvae.
While this is not the prettiest subject we've ever covered, it certainly is one of the strangest. However, consider the Creator’s design here. The horsefly larvae eat toads in order to grow into adults. The toads eat the adult horseflies to make more toads. It appears that God has designed a rather circular food chain that operates quite nicely in the desert where food is scarce.
Notes: J. Greenberg. 1983. “For Whom the Bell? Toads-Poetic Justice in the Arizona Desert.” Science News, Nov. 5, p. 293.
Photo: Courtesy of Takwish. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.
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