Taking care of the lab's colony of toads is a lot of work. The colony contains hundreds of toads that all need food, water, and proper veterinary care.
This is one of the toad rooms used by the Pfennig lab. Each cage houses between one and three toads.
The tags that you see attached to the lids are labeled with the area in which the toads were captured and the identification numbers of the toads. Each cage is labeled with a number so that researchers can easily find the toads that they need for experiments.
When toads get hungry in the wild, they will dig out of their burrows to go look for food. In the lab they have learned that they will be fed if they sit on top of the sand in their cages.
The person feeding the toads will know which toads are hungry because they will have dug to the surface and are waiting to be fed.
Crickets are delivered to the lab every week to be fed to the toads. During daily feedings they are put in a bucket and sprinkled with vitamin powders. The crickets themselves are not that nutritious, so the powders are needed to give the toads the vitamins and minerals that they need to survive.
Once a week, the toads are dug out of their sand and given more crickets, just in case any hungry toads were missed at the last feeding. This also allows the researchers to make sure that all of the toads are healthy and in their correct cages.
Here is a video of a toad eating a cricket.
The toads also need to stay hydrated. Instead of swallowing water, toads absorb it through a patch of skin called the "drinking patch." The people who take care of the toads make sure to always add a little bit of moisture to the toads' sand.
Spadefoot toads live in the desert, so they don't need a lot of water. In fact, a black fungus starts growing on their skin if they get too much! The researchers are careful to leave a wet side and a dry side so that the toads can move if they are getting too much water.
Toads sometimes get sick or hurt, and when this happens a nearby vet is asked to come take a look. These toads have been placed in their own cages away from the rest of the animals in case they have a contagious disease.
She looks so excited.
Once the toads have been fed and watered, they are ready for behavioral experiments!