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Thursday, April 2, 2020
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Midwife Toad

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The midwife toad gets its name from the males behavior. After mating, he carries the eggs wrapped around his body until the young are ready to hatch. Four separate species of midwife toad are found across Western Europe, North Africa, and Majorca. Shy, nocturnal animals, they give away their presence by their ringing call.

Habitat: During the day the midwife toad hides under stones and logs or in underground tunnels. It often hides in dry, sandy soil, which it finds easier to dig into, using its forelegs and snout. It emerges at dusk to forage for food but always returns to the same hiding places before dawn. During the winter, the common midwife toad hibernates in its hole or in a burrow deserted by a small mammal.

Breeding: The midwife toad is unique among other frogs and toads of Europe in that the male cares for the eggs until they hatch. Breeding occurs in May. Once a female responds to the male toads calls. He stimulates her into laying eggs. He fertilizes the eggs immediately and carries them on his body for several weeks until they are ready to hatch into tadpoles. Both toads may mate with others, as well. The male carries on his legs all of the batches of eggs that he has fertilized, attached by strings. The male keeps the eggs moist as the embryos feed and grow on the yolk. When they are ready to hatch, he places his hind legs in the water at the edge of a pool. The tadpoles burst out of the eggs and into the water. Many tadpoles do not change into toads until the following summer. The next year they are big enough to breed.

Food and Feeding: The midwife toad crawls around the area close to its hiding place at night to search for food. It uses the end of its sticky tongue to pick up its prey, such as beetles, crickets, flies, caterpillars, centipedes, and millipedes. Tadpoles feed on vegetable matter. They chew with tiny, horny teeth. Young toads eat smaller sizes of the same prey that adults feed on.

Defenses: The back of the midwife toad is covered with small warts. These warts give off a strong smelling poison when the toad is handled or attacked. The poison is so powerful that the toad has few enemies or predators. The poison also helps to keep the egg strings on the males back safe from attack. The tadpole does not possess the poison and falls prey to fish and insects.

Special Adaptations: The Majorcan midwife toad has adapted to the harsh, dry conditions of this Spanish island. It is found only in deep canyons in the northern mountains. Its body has become flattened through evolution to enable it to squeeze into narrow crevices in the rocks. The only moisture available is in small, rain filled puddles on ledges. Tadpoles are born and develop in these little pools. Fossils of this species have also been found in Europe.

Key Facts:
Length: Adults, 1-3 in. Tadpoles, in.

Sexual maturity: 12-18 months
Mating: April November
No. of eggs: Several clusters of about 60
Metamorphosis: From egg to tadpole to toad, about 8 months, sometimes less

Habit: Solitary or in small groups; common midwife toad hibernates in winter
Diet: Small insects
Life span: At least 5 years

Related Species: The midwife toads family, Discoglossidae, has 10 species; most toads belong to the family Bufonidae, which has about 300 species.
Distribution: The common midwife toad is found in Spain, France, Belgium, and adjoining countries. Three other species are found in Majorca, Morocco, Portugal, and western Spain.
Conservation: Numbers are declining as habitats and breeding pools are destroyed by man. In some areas, midwife toads are bred in captivity for release into suitable sites.

The Male Toad as Midwife: By carrying the eggs on his hind legs, the male toad can keep them out of the pond water, where they are likely to be eaten. The eggs are joined together by tough threads wrapped around the males hind legs. The tadpoles are not released into the water until they are large enough to fend for themselves.

Did You Know:
A midwife toads poison can kill an adder in a few hours.
Midwife toads can be found in the snows of the Pyrenees mountains, living at heights of 5,000-6,500 feet.
The earliest known amphibian lived about 350 million years ago.
Unlike the thin tongue of many amphibians, the midwifes tongue is round and flattened. Its family name, Discoglossidae, means round tongue.
In parts of France midwife toads live in sand dunes next to the sea. They share this habitat with natter jack toads.

This page was Last Updated on Tue Oct 16, 2012 4:38 pm CDT by Ladywildlife

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