Anaxyrus californicus
Arroyo Toad, Arroyo Southwestern Toad
family: Bufonidae

© 2005 Andrew Borcher (1 of 56)

Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Endangered (EN)
NatureServe Status Use NatureServe Explorer to see status.
Other International Status None
National Status Listed as an endangered species by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service since January 17, 1994.
Regional Status Listed as a California Species of Special Concern.


View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.


A medium sized toad with relatively short limbs, it is stocky and blunt-nosed. It has oval parotoid glands, and its cranial crests are weak or not present. The warts are small and dark. The skin varies from light tan to light olive with darker blotching. Underside a uniform, lighter color than dorsal surface. All Arroyo Toads possess a distinctive light colored "V"-shaped stripe spanning the eyes (Fisher and Case 1997; Stebbins 1985).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Mexico, United States

U.S. state distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: California


View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.
The Arroyo Toad occurs exclusively in streams in southern California and northwestern Baja California, Mexico.

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
The Arroyo Toad is found near streams and pools with slow moving shallow areas. Adults burrow in sandy soil near water during the day, and hunt nocturnally. Breeding begins in April and lasts until July. The male call is a high musical trill (Myers 1930). The larvae require sandy bottoms with nutrient sediment for filter feeding. After approximately 3 weeks of development the tadpoles change from a black color to a mottled brown, to blend in with the sandy bottom where they live (Fisher and Case 1985) . Juveniles remain near their pools of origin (due to lack of burrowing ability) for 3 to 8 weeks, then disperse to surrounding shady areas and burrow for winter season. Adults normally require 2 years to reach breeding maturity (Fisher and Case 1985). The longevity of this species is presently unknown.

Trends and Threats
Threats: Damming water systems or otherwise destroying shallow sandy habitat. Illegal collection. Predation on larva by exotic fish (Jennings and Hayes 1994). Predation by bullfrogs.

The Arroyo Toad has been extirpated from an estimated 75 percent of its former range. Threats to the survival of this species include: habitat degradation (from off-road vehicle use and damming of creeks), predation on larvae by exotic fish, and small population sizes (Jennings and Hayes 1994), and predation by introduced bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana. Only 6 of the 22 extant populations south of Ventura are known to contain more than a dozen adults (Jennings and Hayes 1994).

Relation to Humans
Collecting of this species is one of the greatest threats to its survival, and therefore the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife keeps the specific locations of populations confidential.

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

Intensified agriculture or grazing
Disturbance or death from vehicular traffic
Predators (natural or introduced)

Anaxyrus californicus has been classified as a distinct species, separate from A. microscaphus due to both morphological (Myers 1930) and genetic differences (Gergus 1998).

Rescuing an endangered Arroyo Toad from a bullfrog which had eaten it, by cutting it out of the stomach of the euthanized bullfrog (warning: blood).

Runtime: 2:08. Language: English.
Video submitted by: Robert Fisher.

Hear calls at the Western Sound Archive.

See another account at


Fisher, R. N., and Case, T. J. (1997). A Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Coastal Southern California. Lazer Touch, San Mateo, California.

Gergus, E. W. A. (1998). ''Systematics of the Bufo microscaphus complex: allozyme evidence.'' Herpetologica, 54(3), 317-324.

Jennings, M. R., and Hayes, M. P. (1994). ''Amphibian and reptile species of special concern in California.'' Final Report #8023 Submitted to the California Department of Fish and Game. California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento, California..

Myers, G. S. (1930). ''The status of the Southern California Toad, Bufo californicus (Camp).'' Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 43, 73-78.

Stebbins, R. C. (1985). A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

Written by Ryan Reynolds and John Romansic (rreyn AT, UC Berkeley
First submitted 1999-05-21
Edited by Kellie Whittaker, Michelle S. Koo (2013-02-19)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2013 Anaxyrus californicus: Arroyo Toad <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Dec 10, 2018.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2018. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 10 Dec 2018.

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