Betic midwife toad, Alytes dickhilleni

The Betic midwife toad is found around freshwater marshes, pastureland, ponds and temperate forests, mainly around eroded soils near water, open rocky landscapes, or under stones. This species inhabits several mountain ranges in the southeastern area of Spain at altitudes from 2,300 to 6,500 feet.

This small species of toad measures up to 1.2 inches in total length. The skin is shiny, smooth, and contains a few large warts, with a line of white warts along the sides of the body. Behind the large eyes there are raised glands. The pupils are vertical and slit-shaped. The body color of the Betic midwife toad is gray with a mixture of black and pale dots. The limbs and unwebbed fingers and toes are fairly long.

The warts of this species contain a strong-smelling poison that is released when attacked. There are very few natural predators to the Betic midwife toad. This species is nocturnal and hides during the daylight hours. The tadpole of this species does not have the poison and are preyed on by fish.

Adult Betic midwife toads feed on beetles, crickets, flies, caterpillars, centipedes, and millipedes, while the tadpoles feed on vegetation. Young toads will feed on the same prey as the adult.

Male toads of the Betic midwife toad will call the female with short peeping sounds. When an egg-bearing female comes near, the male will hug the female tightly until she lays a long string of eggs. The male will then release his grip and fertilize the string. In about fifteen minutes the male will again climb on the back of the female, and grasp her by the throat. The male will then wrap the egg string around his back legs and then the female will leave the male to care for the eggs until hatching occurs.

The male may also collect egg strings from multiple females during a breeding season. The eggs are kept moist by the male occasionally entering small pools of water. With increased movement of the tadpole inside the egg sac, the male will enter a body of water and deposit the eggs. After hatching the tadpole will take up to a year to develop into a young toad.

Because of a declining habitat and pollution, this species is in the top ten on the Endangered Species list, and listed as vulnerable.

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Amphibia

Order: Anura

Family: Discoglossidae

Image Caption: Betic midwife toad (Alytes dickhilleni). Credit: Benny Trapp/Wikipedia (CC By 3.0)