European Fire-bellied Toad

(Bombina bombina)


European Fire-bellied Toad IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

The European Fire-bellied Toad is 26-60 mm long and may weigh 2-13.9 g. The body is depressed. Above, the skin is densely covered in low tubercles with black horny spines. There are no parotids behind the eyes but paired and arched gland complexes at the neck. The eardrums are not visible. Inner vocal sacs are present at the throat and webbings are well developed at the hind feet. The pupils are heart-shaped. The body colour is grey, brown or green with dark spots on the upper side and blackish with larger orange or red and smaller white spots on the underside. The skin produces a poison to protect itself from bacteria and fungi or the animal from vertebrates. This poison is irritating to mucous membranes. The eggs are brown above and lighter below. They are 1.4-1.8 mm large coated with a transparent jelly of 5-8 mm in diameter. Tadpoles may reach a length of 55 mm and are brownish above with two longitudinal pale bands along the backbone. The mouth field is triangular and the flipper is reticulated.

The food of the European Fire-bellied Toad consists of insects, spiders, millipedes, mollusks and earthworms captured in or nearby the water. The tadpoles mainly feed on algae, bacteria and plankton by grazing the surfaces of stones and plants. If attacked by a vertebrate on land the European Fire-bellied Toad makes a hollow-back and lifts its four legs so that the ventral warning colour is displayed. The combination of dark and red is a learned signal meaning “attention poison” to the enemy.

Reproduction takes place from April to July/August and is induced by heavy rainfall. Then, males can be recognized by some darkened, spiny swelling, the nuptial pad, on their forelegs. They help it to grasp the female properly around its hip. Males defend small territories of 2-3 m in diameter against rivals. Spawn consists of small clutches of 10-40 eggs which are attached to plants. Several such clutches are produced in a short time and thereby a female may lay a total of 80-300 eggs. Tadpoles hatch after 2-5 days and metamorphose after 5-12 weeks from July to September or after hibernation in spring. Young toads are 11-15 mm long and remain at the water’s edge. Maturity is reached at an age of 1-2 years. The European Fire-bellied Toad may live more than 10 years. The rather loud melodic call is repeated about 10-50 times per minute, correlating with temperature, and is performed in the afternoon at temperatures of 12-34 °C while drifting at the water surface. The sound is produced when the air is pressed from the vocal sac back to the lungs which is the opposite “higher” frogs do. It hibernates on land in frost-resisting dens like hollows under stones or dead wood.

Damming of rivers and drainage are the main threats for this species.

Hybridization with the Yellow-bellied Toad may occur where both coexist.

Did you know?
that in captivity an European Fire-bellied Toad reached an age of 29 years?


Name (Scientific) Bombina bombina
Name (English) European Fire-bellied Toad
Name (French) Sonneur à ventre de feu
Name (German) Rotbauchunke, Tieflandunke, Feuerkröte, Rotbauchige Unke
Name (Spanish) Sapillo de vientre de fuego europeo, Sapo de vientre rojo
Local names Croatian: Crveni mukac
Czech: Kunka obecná
Danish: Rødbuget klokkefrø
Dutch: Roodbuikvuurpad
Hungarian: Vöröshasú unka
Polish: Kumak nizinny
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
© Marek Szczepanek



Range Eastern Europe from the coasts of the southern Baltic Sea south to Turkey and eastwards to beyond the Ural in Russia. Reintroduced into Sweden in 1983 after it became extinct about 1960.
Habitat Breeding habitats are sunny, well vegetated, shallow stagnant waters with a strongly fluctuating water level and no fish. On nearby land, it needs sunny open landscape like meadows, pastures, acres and flood plains or edges of forests. A low-land species, up to 590 m high in Austria.
Wild population In Central Europe the species is endangered (Austria) or locally critical (Germany). Regression, probably induced by climate change, is observed at the western limit of the range.
Zoo population 115 reported to ISIS (2008)

In the Zoo

European Fire-bellied Toad


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
© Christian Fischer

Why do zoos keep this animal

The European Fire-bellied Toad is remarkable because it has camouflage colours on its upper side as well as warning colours on its ventral side. Displaying the latter it warns its enemies from the poison on its skin. It also can be used in education to show its complex life cycle. 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.