Since 2011 the Dickinson College Farm has been used as a living laboratory for student researchers, investigating organisms within an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system. IPM is a technique used to control pest insects without use of harmful pesticides. Recent research investigating diet composition of the American toad suggests toads consume a variety of invertebrate organisms on the Dickinson College Farm including some pest insects. The proportion of pest insects susceptible to predation by toads is, however, currently unknown. This project addresses this question, studying the kinematics of toad feeding behavior to characterize terrestrial and elevated prey capture. To measure these parameters toads high-speed videography (500 fps) was filmed using a Miro Phantom EZ1 camera and presented with live prey, crickets, at varying heights above ground. Video analysis was carried out using Tracker video analysis software. The movement of particular landmarks on each toad was monitored over time and included: the upper jaw tip, lower jaw tip, tip of the tongue, jaw joint, tip of coccyx, knee, ankle, and wrist. Preliminary analysis indicates that predation of insects elevated off the ground requires different body positions relative to predation of terrestrial insects and that significant differences exist for variables including: time of maximum excursion, duration of approach,lunge distance, maximum tongue reach, initial angle of attack, maximum angle of hind leg extension, and maximum forelimb excursion. These results support that American toads are effective predators of pest insects, as they have been documented capturing prey at distances 2.3 times their body length.
Brown-Moffitt, Surya; and Boback, Scott M., "Kinematics Of Feeding Behavior In The American Toad: Terrestrial Versus Elevated Prey" (2017). Student Scholarship & Creative Works By Year. 52. https://scholar.dickinson.edu/student_work/52