Georgie: a world record-breaking toad?

Posted on 19 May 2011

Scientists from the University of York believe they may have found the world's oldest wild common toad – living in a garden in Hull.

Sal Hobbs with Georgie. Photo by Sean Spencer/Hull News and Pictures

Common toads are thought to live up to 12 years in the wild, but a toad, affectionately known as Georgie, has been living in a garden in the Greatfield area of Hull for over 38 years and is thought to be at least 40 years old.

York scientists came across Georgie during the Hull Garden Survey, Slime & Spine 2009, an initiative run by Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) which aims to encourage people to get back in touch with nature.

University of York OPAL Community Scientist Sal Hobbs recently checked on Georgie’s progress following its winter hibernation and was pleased to learn the toad is still thriving.

Sal Hobbs said: “As a young adult Georgie was given as a gift to a Hull resident as a way of protecting her tomato plants against pests. That was 38 years ago, so remarkably Georgie must be at least 40 years old now.

“Toads are normally thought to live up to around 12 years old in the wild, although older animals have been found. Captive toads have been known to live a lot longer, to possibly 40 or 50 years old. Therefore, as a wild common toad of her age, Georgie might well be a world record-breaker.”

The discovery of Georgie is just one of many exciting finds we’ve made through OPAL projects which aim to create a new generation of nature-lovers by getting everyone to become involved with the natural world around them

Sal Hobbs, OPAL Community Scientist

Common toads have recently been added to the UK Biodiversity Action Plan as a priority species for conservation. The large bumpy amphibians are often garden visitors and eat slugs and other garden invertebrates, making them popular with gardeners.

Sal Hobbs added: “The discovery of Georgie is just one of many exciting finds we’ve made through OPAL projects which aim to create a new generation of nature-lovers by getting everyone to become involved with the natural world around them. From playing fields and window boxes to business parks or beaches, all spaces are different and all are important for wildlife.”

OPAL is a five-year programme, led by Imperial College London, with 15 partners including universities and other institutions across England. Funded by The Big Lottery Fund, it is bringing scientists and the public closer together to explore environmental issues that have both local and global relevance.

The University of York’s Stockholm Environment Institute, part of the Environment Department, runs OPAL projects with communities across Yorkshire and the Humber. For more information, please contact them at opalproject@york.ac.uk or 01904 434577 or visit the OPAL website at www.OPALexplorenature.org.

Notes to editors:

  • A selection of photos of Sal Hobbs with ‘Georgie’ can be downloaded from http://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2011/community/toad/photos. Alternatively, contact the University of York Press Office on pressoffice@york.ac.uk or 01904 322029.
  • Recognisable by their flat appearance and bumpy skin, toads are distinguishable from frogs which have smooth slimy skin and a dark band behind their eye. Toads can tolerate much drier conditions than frogs so may be found living in gardens where there is no pond for much of the year.
  • Toads breed in large ponds in early spring. Toadspawn is laid in long strings rather than clumps like frogspawn. Toads and their offspring have toxins in their skin which makes an effective defence against predators such as fish and birds.
  • Open Air Laboratories (OPAL), led by Imperial College London, (www.imperial.ac.uk), is a nationwide partnership initiative that inspires communities to discover, enjoy and protect their local environments. It aims to create a new generation of nature-lovers by stimulating interest through local and national projects which are accessible, fun and relevant to anyone who wants to take part. For more information, please visit www.OPALexplorenature.org
  • The Big Lottery Fund, the largest of the National Lottery good cause distributors, has been providing grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since its inception in June 2004. It was established by Parliament on 1 December 2006. Full details of the work of the Big Lottery Fund, its programmes and awards are available on the website: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk.
  • The Big Lottery Fund’s Changing Spaces programme was launched in November 2005 to help communities enjoy and improve their local environments. The programme funds a range of activities from local food schemes and farmers markets, to education projects teaching people about the environment. Imperial College London was awarded a £11,760,783 Changing Spaces grant for OPAL in August 2007.
  • For more information on the Stockholm Environment Institute, visit www.york.ac.uk/sei.
  • For more information on the University of York’s Environment Department, visit www.york.ac.uk/environment.

Contact details

Caron Lett
Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322029

Keep up to date

 Subscribe to news feeds

 Follow us on Twitter