Alison Davies's picture

Black toads

Black toads in my polytunnel:
Have put my question to Montgomery Wildlife Trust, who were very helpful, but I still have questions.

My query/discussion with them went as follows:

I live about three miles from Llanbrynmair in the countryside. For several years now I have found hiding in my polytunnel a couple of, maybe three, toads which have virtually black skin, all over, which is quite velvety, not warty.

Have looked on websites and haven't found anything particularly relevant.

Can toads have such a very different skin colour? NB these are normal British toad size.
Alison Davies

Hi Alison,

Thank you for contacting the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust with your query regarding black toads.

Your toads are more than likely our Common Toad, Bufo bufo. Common Toads vary enormously in colour and are also able to alter the tone of their skin to suit their surroundings, so it is likely that your toads are very dark in colour to blend in with the colour of the area they are living, in your polytunnel. Changing skin colour has two advantages; firstly, they are less obvious to predators and secondly, darker skin colour allows them to absorb more of the heat from the sun. The latter could also explain why your toads seem to be more velvety in nature, as their skins could be quite dry.

I hope this helps,

Kind regards, Tammy

Tammy, Brilliant, makes sense.
One thing - they are able to alter the tone of their skin etc. .....
What are we talking about here? i.e. time-scale?
-Are we saying that the alteration is "ad hoc", i.e. programmed in but appropriate to the immediate life and surroundings of a particular individual changes to suit that situation? Would this be immediate change, starting out normal skin in that toad's lifetime and then adapting? In which case could it change back again in that toad's lifetime should it be expelled from the polytunnel?
-Or might it happen over a couple of generations? i.e. are we talking about a fairly quick evolutionary-type adaptation?

Hi Alison,

That is a good question and the honest answer is that I am really not sure. I would guess that an individual toad is able to alter it's skin colour to suit it's surroundings at that time. So, should it be expelled from the polytunnel, I would expect it to be able to alter to a different tone. How long this would take, I couldn't guess!

You could try posting your observation on iSpot ( and asking the question there.

Sorry I can't be more help.




anonymous spotter's picture

The discussion below -

is about toads changing colour - not well-populated yet, though.

Alison Davies's picture

Black toads

Roger, should I change the title of my topic, i.e. to "toads changing colour"? I am new to this site, it was recommended by Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust.

Looked at your profile, and see you are interested in amphibians and reptiles. Would you be able to throw any light on my query? Hope so. I will be out there looking for the toads again shortly, to see how they are doing. And how they are looking.

anonymous spotter's picture

No need to change the title -

People who are interested will probably browse it anyway.
As I said in the other topic, I don't know if there is any evidence that the toads have much control over colour change, nor is it a speedy process. I'd be interested (and not unhappy!) to find out that I'm behind the times in this opinion...
There is a lot of natural colour variation, and they do seem to change over the season (maybe the skin changes ready for their aquatic breeding phase, then for the terrestrial feeding period, then again for hibernation). They are also said to change with time, maybe due to ageing.
Sadly, chytrid disease can cause very obvious red patches on the skin, which is entirely different to the processes above.

Refugee's picture

One month

In my garden this summer there has been a toad resident under a domestic sage plant and i have two pictures taken a month apart and its color and markings differ and i was thinking of putting the images on anyway to find out if it is indeed the same toad. We do not have a pond so it has only come into the garden to eat slugs and worms and it is indeed slug removal activity that revealed we had one.
I suppose i had better put the images on then.


Masked Marvel's picture

See your observation

I added some comments about this to your observation.

Refugee's picture


I have added more to my observation.