Pelobates – European spadefoot toads

Diggin into sandy soil, members of this genus spend much of their life in the ground

Pelobates, commonly known as spadefoot toads, are primarily found in various parts of Europe and Asia, where they inhabit diverse terrestrial and semi-aquatic environments. They are equipped with specialized spade-like structures on their hind feet, which they use for digging burrows in soft, sandy, or loamy soils. These burrows serve as retreats during hot, dry periods and as breeding sites during wet seasons. This adaptation allows them to escape extreme environmental conditions and seek refuge underground when necessary.

Spadefoot toads are known for their remarkable reproductive strategy, which is closely tied to the occurrence of seasonal rains. They are explosive breeders, meaning they reproduce rapidly when favorable conditions arise. After heavy rainfall, they emerge from their burrows and migrate to temporary or permanent water bodies, such as ponds or puddles, to breed.

One of the intriguing aspects of Pelobates toads is their ability to produce a unique secretion from their parotoid glands located behind their eyes. This secretion, often referred to as “toad milk,” contains proteins and toxins that deter predators. While it serves as a defense mechanism, the secretion can be irritating or toxic to potential threats, including some predators, further enhancing their chances of survival.

Pelobates toads face various conservation challenges. Habitat loss and fragmentation due to urbanization, agriculture, and infrastructure development threaten their populations. Furthermore, the decline in natural breeding sites and the spread of pollution in water bodies pose additional risks to their survival.