Iberian midwife toad, Alytes cisternasii
The Iberian midwife toad is found around the Iberian Peninsula in southern and eastern Portugal, and also in western and central Spain. The elevation range of this species is between 300 – 4,265 feet, but it is typically found around 2,000 feet.
The Iberian midwife toad prefers dry habitats in meadows and open forests with sandy soil that grow vegetation adapted for dry regions. However, this toad relies on streams and pools for the development of the tadpoles. The Iberian midwife toad is a nocturnal amphibian spending its life mostly underground where it will bury itself in sandy soil.
This species has rough skin that covers a small stocky body. It has a short head and large eyes with vertical pupils. Located on the upper eyelids there are usually one or two rows of reddish warts. The upper body color is normally brown with dark spots and reddish warts, while the underside is white. A light colored band is often found between the eyes and a row of large warts extend from the chin to the groin. The front fingers are short and without webs, but the toes are long and webbed at the base. The adult male of this species is about 1.5 inches long and the female about 1.75 inches.
The Iberian midwife toad is a night feeder that will consume small insects, crustaceans, flies, grasshoppers, moth larvae, weevils, other beetles, and ants; sometimes also feeding on isopods, spiders, and snails.
Breeding occurs between September and March with most of the activity during October and November. The male will call for a mate several hours a night during the breeding season. The female responds with a call of her own. The communication between the male and female goes on for several minutes.
The female will seek out the male. The male will grab the female by the waist and the body of the female will rock back and forth. Then the male will squeeze on the female causing the release of the eggs, and then the male will fertilize them. After this process the male will wind the eggs around his back legs and carry them around until they are ready to hatch. Hatching will take place in nearby water.
The female Iberian midwife toad can lay a clutch of eggs up to four times a season, while the male will mate with more than one female during the breeding season. Sexual maturity occurs around two years of age in this species.
The Iberian midwife toad also has a strong defense against predators by producing a strong odorous toxin from the warts on the back.
This species is near threatened on the Endangered Species list primarily from loss of habitat and pollution. Introduction of predatory fish and Louisiana crayfish have also played a role in the species decline in population. Another threat to the Iberian midwife toad is chytrid fungus which has already affected the common midwife toad in Spain.
Image Credit: Benny Trapp/Wikipedia (CC BY 3.0)