Jeweled toad (Incilius gemmifer)

Synonyms: Bufo gemmifer, Cranopsis gemmifer, Ollotis gemmifer
Spanish: Sapo Joya
GenusIncilius (1)
SizeSnout-vent length: up to 8 cm (2)

The jeweled toad is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Contrary to its evocative name, the little-known jeweled toad (Incilius gemmifer) is reported to be a medium sized amphibian of rather uniform colouration, often with a wide dark band down the middle of the back (2). The head is relatively wide, with a greatly reduced central (parietal) crest, and an enlarged crest above the ear openings (2) (3). Like other members of the Bufonidae family, the species has two prominent parotoid glands just behind the head (4), although these are relatively small and flattened compared to other Incilius species (2) (3).

The jeweled toad is believed to be very closely related to Incilius mazatlanensis, being distinguished mainly by the more reduced parietal crest and parotoid glands (2) (3). However, the taxonomy of the species is currently under review (1).

The jeweled toad is known only from the central coastal region of the state of Guerrero, Mexico, where it has been recorded from lowland areas to the north and west of the city of Acapulco (1) (2) (5).

This toad primarily inhabits dry and deciduous forest, and has not been recorded outside lowland areas near Acapulco, or in the wetter palm groves near the coast (1) (2).

Virtually nothing is known about the biology of the jeweled toad. It has most often been recorded calling from temporary ponds, as well as from river banks (3), and is reported to breed in streams (1). Like most other members of the Bufonidae, it is likely to live on the ground, moving by short hops or by running, and to lay large strings of eggs in water, wrapped around vegetation (4).

In most other species, the eggs hatch into free-swimming tadpoles, which transform into adults in about two to ten weeks. Toxic secretions from the parotoid glands behind the head help protect members of this group from predators (4).

The main threat to the jeweled toad is habitat loss, due to the spread of agriculture, the expansion of plantations, and wood extraction. Its population is believed to be small and declining, and its highly restricted distribution puts it at particular risk of extinction (1).

Many amphibian species worldwide are under threat from a combination of factors that include climate change, disease and pollution (6) (7), but the extent to which these are impacting the jeweled toad is currently unknown.

The jeweled toad is legally protected in Mexico, but its only real chance of survival is likely to be the effective protection of suburban and tropical dry areas around Acapulco (1).

General conservation measures recommended for other amphibians, such as captive breeding, further research, disease research and increasing public awareness, may also potentially benefit this poorly known species (6) (7).

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  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2010)
  2. Porter, K.R. (1964) Distribution and taxonomic status of seven species of Mexican Bufo. Herpetologica, 19(4): 229-247.
  3. Porter, K.R. (1964) Morphological and mating call comparisons in the Bufo valliceps complex. American Midland Naturalist, 71(1): 232-245.
  4. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Frost, D.R. (2009) Amphibian Species of the World: An Online Reference. American Museum of Natural History, New York. Available at:
  6. Gascon, C., Collins, J.P. Moore, R.D., Church, D.R., McKay, J.E. and Mendelson III, J.R. (2007) Amphibian Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Available at:
  7. Young, B.E., Stuart, S.N., Chanson, J.S., Cox, N.A. and Boucher, T.M. (2004) Disappearing Jewels: The Status of New World Amphibians. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available at: