On a sunny morning in late July near Haines in Southeast Alaska, four kids have discovered a small stream full of tadpoles. Thousands of black tadpoles are milling about or resting in the shallow, sun-warmed water. These aren't frogs, they're toads - Western Toads, the only species of toad in Alaska.
These toad tadpoles are about the size of a dime, with a short tail. They're growing fast, feeding on aquatic plants and algae. Adult toads eat insects, worms, spiders and slugs, but tadpoles are herbivores. These tadpoles hatched from eggs laid in late April or early May. Breeding is highly synchronous, meaning all the toads in an area mate and lay eggs in just a few days. The eggs hatch in about a week, and the tadpoles grow and develop for two or three months in the summer. During that time, they are vulnerable predators like robins, sandpipers, yellowlegs, and killdeer and predaceous invertebrates like diving beetles and dragonfly larvae. If they escape these tadpole predators, in a few weeks these tadpoles will undergo changes - their skin hardens, they develop legs, and metamorphose into toadlets, which look like tiny adults.