Common Midwife Toad

(Alytes obstetricans)


Common Midwife Toad IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

The Common Midwife Toad is 25-55 mm long. It has a squat body, a wide head with a pointed snout, and short legs. The upper side is grey to greyish brown with rounded nipples which are aligned and may be reddish along the loins. The underside is dirty white and usually spotted with grey. The legs are reddish beneath. The irides are golden-and-black spotted. The pupils are slit-shaped and vertical, and the parotids, i.e. the glands behind the ears, and the eardrums are well visible. The eardrums are smaller than the eyes. Webbings are reduced. There is no vocal sac. Eggs are yellowish-white and 2.2-4.9 mm in diameter. Tadpoles are giants and may reach a maximum length of 110 mm. They are brown dorsally and blackish with light spots ventrally comprising a median light line. The flipper has small dark and larger light spots.

The Common Midwife Toad is nocturnal and feeds on beetles, bugs, maggots, caterpillars, woodlice, spiders, worms, slugs, snails, millipedes, harvestmen and other arthropods. The tadpoles, however, feed on plants and their debris. Its enemies are vertebrates.

Midwife toads are unique in their reproduction. During mating, which takes place on land from February to August, the male, which has no darkened swelling, the nuptial pad on their forelegs, is coiling the laid and fertilized string of 5-77 eggs around his ankles. Afterwards, it is carrying them around for 20-45 days until embryonic development is completed. In time, the male seeks for cool, stagnant water like a pool where the tadpoles are released. Additional matings may follow and males can carry several clutches at once. Tadpoles of the Common Midwife Toad are vigorous and have a chance to metamorphose of more than 40 %. They metamorphose after 3-5 weeks in September or October or, if hatched late, after hibernating in May or June. Maturity is reached at the age of 2-3 years. The usually nocturnal call is a pleasant repetitive sound like strokes of a small bell. Sometimes, this call is performed even during day from their den. Adult Common Midwife Toads hibernate frost-protected in the ground and life may last up to about 8 years.

Threats are habitat destruction and conversion, natural succession with growing bushes, habitat fragmentation by isolation of populations and the water-born fungal disease chytridiomycosis caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis which was transported all over the world with the African Claw Frog (Xenopus laevis).

Did you know?
that after mating the male of the Common Midwife Toad carries around a string of eggs, coiled around his ankles, for some weeks before going to water to release the tadpoles? that the Common Midwife Toad is legally protected in Germany (FFH-RL, BArtSchV), is endangered in Germany and Switzerland, and is listed in appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats? That Common Midwife Toads, which are ready to call, will answer if you whistle to them?


Name (Scientific) Alytes obstetricans
Name (English) Common Midwife Toad
Name (French) Alyte accoucheur, Crapaud accoucheur
Name (German) Gemeine Geburtshelferkröte, Glockenfrosch, Fesslerkröte
Name (Spanish) Sapo partero común
Local names Dutch: Vroedmeesterpad
German (add.): Gewöhnliche Geburtshelferkröte, Geburtshelferkröte, Eiertragende Kröte, Geburtshelfender Fessler, Geburtsfrosch, Läutefrosch, Steinklinke, Steinklimper, Steinkröte, Steinunke, Moorunke, Möhnli, Klinkerkröte, Aschgraue Kröte
Luxembourgish: Kleunkske
Portuguese: Sapo-parteiro, Sapo-parteiro-comum
Swiss German: Glögglifrösch, Steichröttli
Walloon: Clouctea, Clouctrê, Clouk, Cwåkea, Cloukete, Clotchteu
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
© Victor Loehr



Range Three subspecies (two confined to the Iberian Peninsula) are distributed over Southwestern Europe, including Portugal, Spain, Andorra (not listed but mapped), France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Introduced to United Kingdom.
Habitat On land, sun-warmed and moist hiding places in open natural and man-made habitats like quarries or clay pits are needed for embryonic development. Slopes with friable soil and exposed to the sun are preferred. Tadpoles are set into nearby ponds or pools without fish, in Iberia also into slowly flowing creeks and rivers. Up to 2,400 m high in the Pyrenees.
Wild population Population decline in Central Europe, fragmented in Iberia.
Zoo population 12 reported to ISIS (2008)

In the Zoo

Common Midwife Toad


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
© Christian Fischer

Why do zoos keep this animal

The reproduction is unique in midwife toads where males care about the eggs. Additionally the importance of habitat destruction and man-made habitats can be pointed out. Concerning the global amphibian crisis it is compulsive to breed them in captivity (Amphibian Ark). Zoos are qualified and comparably well adapted to do this.