Its name already gives away what it looks like: the yellow-bellied toad has a bright yellow belly with black spots.
What do yellow-bellied toads look like?
The yellow-bellied toad surprises: From above it is greyish-brownish, blackish, or clay-colored, and there are warts on the skin. This makes it well camouflaged in water and mud. On the other hand, on the belly side and on the underside of the front and hind legs it shines lemon or orange-yellow and is patterned with blue-grey spots.
Like all amphibians, the yellow-bellied toad sheds its skin from time to time. The different color variants – whether brown, gray, or blackish – depend on where the yellow-bellied toads live. So they differ from region to region. Toads resemble toads, at least when viewed from above but are slightly smaller and their bodies are much flatter.
Yellow-bellied toads are just four to five centimeters tall. They belong to the guards and amphibians, but not toads or frogs. They form a family of their own, the disc-tongued family. It is so-called because these animals have disc-shaped tongues. In contrast to the tongue of frogs, a toad’s disc tongue does not dart out of its mouth to catch prey.
In addition, unlike frogs and toads, males of the yellow-bellied toad do not have a vocal sac. During the mating season, the males get black bumps on their forearms; so-called rutting calluses form on fingers and toes. The pupils are striking: they are heart-shaped.
Where do yellow-bellied toads live?
Yellow-bellied toads live in central and southern Europe at an altitude of 200 to 1800 meters. In the south they are found in Italy and France up to the Pyrenees on the Spanish border, they are not found in Spain. The Weserbergland and Harz mountains in Germany are the northern limits of distribution. Further north and east, the closely related fire-bellied toad occur in its place.
Toads need shallow, sunny pools to live. They like it best when these tiny bodies of water are near a forest. But they can also find a home in gravel pits. And even a tire track filled with water is enough for them to survive. They do not like ponds with too many aquatic plants. If a pond overgrows, the toads migrate again. Because yellow-bellied toads migrate from body of water to body of water, they are often among the first animals to colonize a new small pond. Because such small bodies of water are becoming increasingly rare here, there are also fewer and fewer yellow-bellied toads.
Which yellow-bellied toad species are there?
The fire-bellied toad (Bombina bombina) is closely related. Their back is also dark, but their abdomen has bright orange-red to red spots and small white dots. However, it lives further east and north than the yellow-bellied toad and is not found in the same areas. Unlike the yellow-bellied toad, it has a vocal sac. The ranges of both species only overlap from central Germany to Romania. Yellow and fire-bellied toads can even mate here and have offspring together.
How old do yellow-bellied toads get?
Yellow-bellied toads live no more than eight years in the wild. Unlike toads, which only go into the water to reproduce, toads live almost exclusively in ponds and small lakes from April to September. They are diurnal and usually hang out with their hind legs, eyes, and nose over water, in their sunlit pond. This looks pretty relaxed and casual.
Yellow-bellied toads usually do not stay in one body of water, but migrate back and forth between different ponds. Young animals, in particular, are real hikers: they travel up to 3000 meters to find a suitable habitat. Adult animals, on the other hand, hardly walk more than 60 or 100 meters to the nearest water hole. The reaction to danger is typical of the yellow-bellied toad: it is the so-called fright position.
The toad lies motionless on its stomach and bends its front and hind legs upwards so that the brightly colored coloring becomes visible. Sometimes she also lies on her back and shows her yellow and black belly. This coloring is supposed to warn enemies and keep them away because the toads secrete a poisonous secretion that irritates the mucous membranes in case of danger.
In winter, the yellow-bellied toads hide in the ground under stones or roots. There they survive the cold season from the end of September to the end of April.
Friends and foes of the yellow-bellied toad
Newts, grass snakes, and dragonfly larvae like to attack the offspring of yellow-bellied toads and eat the tadpoles. Fish also have an appetite for toad tadpoles. Therefore, toads can only survive in waters without fish. Grass snakes and newts are particularly dangerous for adults
How do yellow-bellied toads reproduce?
The mating season for yellow-bellied toads is from late April and early May to mid-July. During this time, the females lay eggs several times. The yellow-bellied toad males sit in their ponds and try to attract females who are ready to mate with their calls. At the same time, they keep other males at bay with their prophecies of doom and say: Stop, this is my territory.
When mating, the males hold the females tightly. The females then lay their eggs in small round packets. The egg packets – each containing about 100 eggs – are either glued to the stems of aquatic plants by the female or sink to the bottom of the water.
The tadpoles hatch from them after eight days. They are surprisingly large, measuring an inch and a half when they hatch and growing up to two inches long as they develop. They are grey-brown in color and have dark spots. Under favorable conditions, they can develop into small toads within a month. This rapid development is important because toads live in small bodies of water that can dry up over the summer. Only when the tadpoles have grown into small toads by then can they migrate across land and look for a new body of water as a home.