common toad (Bufo bufo) the European toad es a large amphibian located in Europe. Although it is not found in Iceland, nor in some areas of the Mediterranean. However, it is also possible to find it in Siberia and North Africa.

It is the fourth most common amphibian in Europe, after the Edible frog (Pelophylax esculentus), Common frog (Rana temporaria) and Smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)

Common toad in the forest
Common toad in the forest

Features

The common toad is a vertebrate animal which can measure about 15 cm in length. Females are typically more robust than males and southern specimens are typically larger than northern ones.

The head is broad with a mouth under the muzzle that has two small nostrils and lacks teeth. The eyes are bulbous and protruding with a yellow or copper colored iris and horizontal slit-shaped pupils. Just behind the eyes are obliquely positioned paratoid glands that contain a noxious substance called bufotoxin that is used by the toad to deter predators.

The toad's skin is dry and covered in small, wart-like bumps and rough. Its color is a uniform brown, olive brown or greyish brown, although the colors can vary from black to green to yellow. Periodically, the common toad sheds its skin. This is removed in ragged pieces and then consumed.

It can live for many years, in nature it is believed that it lives between 10 and 12 years, while in captivity they have survived up to 50 years. Their age can be determined by counting the number of annual growth rings found on their phalangeal bones.

Behavior

The common toad is A wild animal It moves slowly, making short jumps and, unlike other frogs, its hind legs are short and its fingers are long and untangled.

Is a nocturnal animal, since it hunts at night and spends the day resting.

Habitat

The common toad is found throughout Europe, except for Iceland, the cold northern parts of Scandinavia, Ireland, and several islands in the Mediterranean (Malta, Crete, Corsica, Sardinia, and the Balearic Islands). It extends as far as Irkutsk in Siberia and includes areas such as Northwest Africa in the northern mountain ranges of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

It is most active in humid climates and is found near areas near water in wooded areas such as coniferous, deciduous and mixed forests. It is also possible to see it in bogs and meadows.

Food

The common toad spends the day hidden in a den where its coloration makes it go unnoticed. He comes out at dusk and usually walks quite a bit in the dark when hunting. It is a voracious carnivorous animal and their diet is mainly based on invertebrates such as insects, worms, spiders, mealybugs, slugs, beetles, caterpillars, flies, worms, and even small mice.

Smaller, fast-moving prey are hunted with their long, sticky tongue, while larger prey are grabbed with their jaws. Having no teeth, the prey are swallowed whole.

Predators

Due to its size, the common toad has numerous predators such as grass snakes, hedgehogs, foxes, domestic cats y birds.

The toad has developed a measure to scare off its predators that consists of puffing itself up, standing up with its hindquarters raised and its head lowered to secrete a toxin that produces a bad taste. It is known that the grass snake is not affected by this toxin and birds such as crows pierce the skin with their beaks, and then peck their liver and thus avoid its toxin.

Tadpoles can also exude these toxins to defend themselves against their aquatic predators, with the exception of the crested newt. At this stage, their greatest predators are dragonfly larvae, diving beetles and water boatmen. It is also capable of feeding on the tadpole, avoiding its toxins, piercing the skin and sucking its juices.

There is also a parasitic fly, Lucilia bufonivora, which attacks toads in a macabre way. It lays its eggs on the toad's skin and when they hatch, the larvae enter the toad's nostrils and eat its meat internally, creating lethal consequences for the toad.

Reproduction

The male common toad is a oviparous animal which develops nuptial pads on its first three fingers, which it will use to better grip the female during mating.

In the first place a few weeks before the males arrive, the females stay a minimum time to mate and spawn. Common toads don't fight each other, but they do compete with their voice. However, when there are an excessive number of males they do fight each other, even when other males have already begun to mate.

The female lays her eggs in the water, between 3.000 and 6.000 eggs, while the male fertilizes them. The tadpoles will take about two or three weeks to hatch and will feed on the gelatin that enveloped them. At first glance they are similar to common frog tadpoles (rana temporaria) but darker in color. In the course of a few weeks the legs will develop and they will lose their tails, at twelve weeks they will be miniature toads that will measure about 1,5 cm long. From the water they will jump to the land where they will spend the rest of their lives.

It is known that adults return year after year to the same place and 80% do so in the same place where they hatched.

Common toad mating
Common toad mating

State of conservation

The common toad is considered a species of least concern. This is due to the fact that it has a wide distribution throughout almost all of Europe and does not suffer loss of habitat since it is very adaptable, being able to live in deciduous and coniferous forests, bushes, grasslands, parks and gardens.

The main threats it faces are loss of local habitat, drainage of wetlands where it breeds, agricultural activities, pollution and mortality on the roads.

On the other hand, chidiomycosis is an infectious disease of amphibians that has been reported in common toads in Spain and the United Kingdom and can affect some populations.

Curiosities

In 2007, researchers surveyed Loch Ness (Scotland) using a remotely operated submarine and observed a common toad moving along the bottom of the loch at a depth of 325 feet (99 meters). They were quite surprised to discover an animal that did not have gills could survive in such a place at that depth.

The European clam clam (Sphaerium corneum) can climb aquatic plants, but sometimes clings to the toe of the common toad. The reason for this is unknown, but it is believed to be the clam's way of moving around.

List of other interesting animals