The Midwife Toad (Alytes obstetricans)



The Midwife Toad grows between 3.5 and 5 centimetres and is therefore one of the smaller native frog toads. The back is greyish to brownish in colour. The belly side is pale grey to whitish and partly covered with cream dots and spots. The pupils are vertical and slightly diamond-shaped. The Midwife Toad is nocturnal and lives very hidden. At night it attracts attention during the reproductive period due to its bright, flute-like or bell-like reputation, to which it also owes the name "bell frog".



The Midwife Toad occurs in Germany in the mountainous and hilly regions of western Central Germany and the southern Black Forest. In Germany it reaches both its northern and eastern distribution limits.


© DGHT registered association. (Ed. 2014): Dissemination atlas of amphibians and reptiles in Germany, based on data from the federal state authorities, expert working groups and NABU federal state expert committees of the federal states as well as the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation.


As a terrestrial habitat the Midwife Toad populates a wide range of open to semi-open, structurally rich landscapes and predominantly vegetation-poor areas, in which it finds a multitude of sun-exposed hiding places. These are often hillside embankments as well as stony and rocky areas (e.g. walls, excavation areas in quarries or stone piles). The land habitats are located in the immediate vicinity of reproduction waters. As reproductive waters, Midwife Toads use a broad spectrum of water types, but mostly small to medium-sized ponds, quarry waters or ponds. It is important that the water is predominantly permanently water-bearing or only dries out late in the course of the year, as some of the larvae are deposited relatively late (July or August) in the water bodies and these larvae hibernate in the water bodies.



The reproduction of the Midwife Toad begins at the end of March and extends until the beginning of August. In this period, mainly the bright flute-like calls of the males are to be heard. The reproduction takes place, in contrast to the reproductive behavior of other European amphibian types, on shore. In addition, the male alone is responsible for the care of the brood. During mating, the spawn is transferred from the female to the male in an elaborate act. The male wraps the spawning line with up to 60 eggs around the hind legs. In this way a male can transport up to three spawning lines from different females at the same time, and thus about half of his own body weight. The male carries the eggs around on land for about 3 to 7 weeks and, when the eggs are ready for hatching, goes to the water where the larvae hatch after contact with water. How exactly the male recognizes the optimal hatching period, especially with multiple clutches of eggs, is until today not known with certainty . Depending on the water temperature, the larvae usually develop over a period of 8 to 12 weeks and reach a size of 50 to 70 mm. Larvae, which are deposited in a water body only at the end of July or in August, spend the winter in the water body and reach a total length of 60 to 80 mm.



The loss of small water bodies due to the filling up of the water, as well as the entry of garbage, fertilizer and environmental toxins are the most important causes of danger for the Midwife Toad. In addition, the loss of small water bodies, fish stocking and the removal or grouting of quarry stone walls in settlement areas are major causes of decline. In addition, there are increasing and prolonged periods of drought due to climate change, which favour the drying up of spawning waters early in the year. In particular, the occurrence of deeper sites has declined in recent decades.


Conservation status

The Midwife Toad is protected throughout Europe according to the flora-fauna-habitats Directive (annex IV) and belongs to the "specially and strictly protected species" according to the Federal Nature Conservation Act.



Literature reference:  Uthleb, H (2012): Die Geburtshelferkröte – Brutpflege ist männlich. Laurenti-Verlag, Bielefeld.