Midwife toad (Alytes obstetricans)

Common midwife toad (Alytes obstetricans)

It is a common midwife toad (Alytes obstetricans). A common amphibian in Spain with a few quirks.

This one has a little story. We found it, when cleaning the pool. After all winter without filling it, it came out of the filling tube and fell into the water. In addition to 6 tadpoles of a certain size. We let go of the frog and take care of the tadpoles, 3 of them reached adults.

I took advantage of this capture to teach my daughters to identify species with a key, dichotomous guide for the identification of amphibians in the natural parks of Spain. It is created by the Ministry for the Ecological transition. You can download it from this link and I also hang it in case it gets lost that these things are no longer available later. They love me.

And here are some notes of things that I have been discovering about the midwife toad.


description of a midwife toad

It's a small toad, less than 5 cm. With a life expectancy of 5 years which is very little considering that common toads (Bufo bufo) can live up to 30 years.

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backside of a toad

Lateral eyes, with golden iris and vertical pupil. Chubby appearance, grainy skin with warts.

It is not territorial, males can share shelter in rocks, crevices, etc.. And they compete with each other acoustically.

In this photo we can appreciate well the third eyelid or nictitating membrane.

nictitating membrane or third eyelid of some amphibians, anurans

How to identify it

The first method is with the key that we have left above.

Another way to identify them is by singing. It is tremendously unique, unmistakable, like a small hiss emitted by males, it looks like a little owl. Until now, despite listening to it many summer nights, I did not know what animal it belonged to. I managed to record it. You can listen to it here.

Habitat and area of ​​distribution

We can find it in a wide variety of habitats, from mountainous areas, forests and riverbanks to urban areas.

Throughout different countries (Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, France and the Iberian Peninsula)

What do they eat? Feeding

feeding of toads, and common midwife toad

Like other types of anurans They feed on spiders, arthropods and small insects, worms, larvae, beetles, earthworms, moths, etc.

They are not pets. But sometimes we save tadpoles from ponds that are about to dry up. I like that the girls take care of them and observe the transformations.

The tadpoles or larvae eat plant matter and carrion that they find in the water. If you have to feed them temporarily you can do it with fish food.

The amplexus

After the first rains of September comes the amplexus (which is the mating method of anuran amphibians)It is produced on land and is inguinal, with the peculiarity that it is the males that carry the eggs. The male stimulates the female to release a string of eggs that are fertilized by the male and latch onto his hind legs where he will carry them for approximately 1 month.

I have not been able to photograph it yet, I hope I can take good photos of the amplexus soon.

Types or species of midwife toads

types and species of midwife toads

There are 5 species of midwife toads:

  1. Common midwife toad (Alytes obstetricans)
  2. Iberian midwife toad (Alytes cisternasii)
  3. Balearic midwife or ferreret toad (Alytes muletensis)
  4. Betic midwife toad (Alytes dickhilleni)
  5. Maghreb midwife toad (Alytes maurus)

The first 4 can be found in Spain and in Valencia, only the common midwife toad lives. So there is no confusion between species when we find one.

And in winter?

I have often wondered what frogs and toads do in winter.

Well, toads and anurans bruman. Brumation is a kind of hibernation of amphibians and reptiles. They are left in a state of lethargy underwater, although they have to continue eating and drinking from time to time. I leave more details about hibernation and brumation in this article.

Sources and references

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