Endangered Species: The Science Behind the Boreal Colorado Toad


Myles Keefauver, Dedicated writer


Boreal Colorado Toads are a type of toad in Colorado. These toads appear swampy brown and do an excellent job at camouflaging themselves.  Also they live at a surprisingly high elevation compared to other frogs and toads. 


These toads face a similar difficulty to the toads in Peru. The Boreal Colorado Toads and the toads in Peru are being endangered by a chytrid fungus called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis; causing Chytridiomycosis. This fungus spreads to amphibians, and grows on them. Due to this the toads can’t breathe, which suffocates them. But don’t worry, there is a breeding program where Colorado Boreal toads are being bred with other Boreal toads in San Louwise Valley that are resistant to the fungus. This will change the genetics of the offspring to be resistant to the fungus.


My Theory:

I’m guessing, and I haven’t found anything correcting me or proving, but I think that most amphibians aren’t able to live at elevations around 7,000-12,000 feet above sea level expect Boreal Toads and a few others because of the fact that amphibians can breathe through their skin. This makes low pressure which is higher elevation affect their ability to breathe through their skin by expanding their respiratory system. This is because amphibians have their “lungs” as their skin and don’t have a separate layer outside. Unlike how humans have a visceral pleural membrane and a parietal pleural membrane right outside their lungs to balance the pressure outside to the inside so the lungs don’t fail. With amphibians, if the pressure outside is lower than the pressure inside the amphibian’s respiratory system, it causes this system to expand since amphibians’ respiratory systems aren’t protected.


Take a balloon for example, at higher air pressure the balloon constricts, but at a far lower air pressure, the balloon expands. If the balloon is unprotected, like the amphibian’s skin, at higher altitude and lower air pressure it expands and the toad can’t regulate its breathing since there is too little pressure for the amphibian to exhale. This can kill the amphibian and in space cause the balloon to burst. 


Interview questions for Mr. Wedemeyer:

What do you know about the Boreal Colorado Toads? 

Mr. Wedemeyer explains that the Boreal Colorado Toad is Colorado’s state amphibian, there are many programs to bring back their numbers and amphibians have three chambers that mix the CO2 with the O2 during gas exchange. He also mentioned there is a facility that is breeding the toads and other endangered amphibians in John W. Mumma Native Aquatic Species Restoration in San Louwise Valley. They are figuring out how to make all amphibians resistant to the fungus, since he says that there isn’t a known cure. 


What do you think of my theory?

“It’s called subcutaneous respiration” explained Mr. Wedemeyer.  Another reason is that Mr. Wedemeyer took into consideration that since amphibians are ectothermic (cold-blooded) higher elevations result in colder temperatures. This means that amphibians living in high elevations can’t warm themselves up and freeze.


What is your favorite amphibian? 

Mr. Wedemeyer states “Tiger Salamanders. …I used to find Tiger Salamanders in my windcell.”

                    (Part of Human Respiratory system)



Denver zoo summer camp, Colorado Parks and Wildlife AK LECTURES, and Dr.John Campbell (you can find the last two people on youtube).