Skin and poison glands in toads (Rhinella) and their role in defence and water balance

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Toads are considered poisonous animals since they have a passive mode of defence relying on cutaneous poison glands, differently from venomous animals who can inject venom in predators/aggressors or prey. Toads of Rhinella marina group are generally large and have a broad distribution in South America, inhabiting a wide range of environments. In this paper, we studied the toads Rhinella icterica from the Atlantic rainforest, and Rhinella jimi from the Brazilian Semiarid Caatinga, analysing aspects of natural history and comparing their skin morphology, the presence of macroglands, their resistance to water loss and rates of water uptake. In periods of extreme drought, R. jimi uses rock cracks as refuges, exposing only the head and regions of accumulation of poison glands. The skin of R. jimi showed higher number of poison glands with hydrophilic content than R. icterica. R. jimi also had a thicker skin, which can be related to its superior resistance to water loss. It also showed high rates of rehydration in association with a peculiar behaviour using the limbs to spread water onto highly glandular skin areas, suggesting that poison glands may also act in water balance in addition to chemical defence.
Mailho-Fontana PL, Titon Jr B, Antoniazzi MM, Gomes FR, Jared C. Skin and poison glands in toads (Rhinella) and their role in defence and water balance. Acta Zool.. 2022 Jan;103(1):112-128. doi:10.1111/azo.12390.
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