At first glance this appears to be an ordinary common toad – with its warty skin and golden eyes – but on closer inspection it becomes clear that this is no ‘common’ toad. This unusual little amphibian has an extra foot, with two limbs growing from the elbow on its right front leg.
“I was doing a regular gardening maintenance job for one of my clients in North London, near the West Reservoir,” explains Ms Conochie. “As I was clearing some weeds from around the edge of his pond I noticed a couple of young toads which I started to carefully move out of the way. I picked up this particular little toad and I thought he had some weed wrapped around his front leg. But as I looked closer I saw it was no less than a perfectly formed extra foot! I took a photo of it on my phone, and my client's daughter also took a few pictures with her camera, and I sent the photos off to Froglife to find out a bit more about what was going on.”
Froglife’s Wildlife Information Service deals with thousands of enquiries every year (though not all are so unusual!).
“It’s likely this deformity is a genetic mutation,” says Conservation Communication Officer Lucy Benyon. “As with all animals, including humans, naturally occurring genetic problems can lead to extra or missing limbs. Occasionally it can be a sign of pollution in the area or a parasite in the water but it’s more likely to be something natural which is nothing to worry about.”
Ms Conochie released the toad back near the pond where it climbed off into the undergrowth. “The toad seemed to be coping well with its extra foot; it was perfectly able to crawl away and was just as elegant as a regular toad!”
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Photo by Alice Timmins.