|European common toad|
|Binomial name||Bufo bufo|
|Average Size||10-20 cm (4-8 inches) long|
|Average weight||9 oz|
|Distribution of species||From Norway south to Morocco and from Spain east to central Russia|
The European common toad, Bufo bufo, is a species of true toad native to Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. It is the type species of the family Bufonidae and the genus Bufo; therefore, it is the species around which the Bufonidae family revolves and has all of the quintessential toad characteristics.
- The common toad was first given the binomial name Rana bufo by the Swedish biologist Carl Linnaeus in the 10th edition of Systema Naturae in 1758. In this work, he placed all the frogs and toads in the single genus Rana. It later became apparent that this should be subdivided and the Austrian naturalist Josephus Nicolaus Laurenti placed the common toad in the genus Bufo as Bufo bufo in 1768. The toads in this genus are known as true toads and are characterised by a dry warty skin and horizontal pupils in the eyes.
- Bufo bufo is now considered to be a species complex, a group of closely related species the demarcation between which is unclear. It is believed that the modern subspecies are descended from a common, preglacial ancestral form. These subspecies include B. b. spinosus, B. b. gredosicola, B. b. verrucosissima and B. b. japonicus. The subspecies B. b. bufo seems to have arisen more recently. It is believed that the range of the ancestral form extended into Asia but that isolation between an eastern and western race occurred as a result of greater aridity and desertification in the Middle East during the Middle Miocene. The exact systematic relationships between the subspecies remains unclear.
- Bufo bufo is a relatively large toad. Depending on the subspecies, it ranges in length from 10 to 20 cm and from 250 to almost 400 grams. Female specimens are generally larger and bulkier than males; however the males have proportionately bulkier and more muscular legs.
- B. bufo is somewhat variable in colouration. Most subspecies are primarily brown or gray with a pale belly. The subspecies B. b. bufo is primarily light brown with mottled legs, while B. b. gredosicola is typically a mottled gray or dark brown. The subspecies B. b. verrucosissima, meanwhile, is dark gray or gray-brown with dark brown to charcoal-coloured legs and a pale gray belly, and B. b. spinosus is dark brown or gray-brown with flecks of off-white or pale gray on its dorsum and flanks.
- All subspecies of European common toads possess golden eyes with horizontal pupils. They have keen eyesight and are efficient tongue-hunters, rarely missing a prey item. The skin is rough and granular, but, unlike some of its relatives, the skin of the common toad is relatively soft.
- As with most hyloid frogs, the eyes of B. bufo face forward, giving it superior binocular vision than most other frogs. Its peripheral vision, however, is relatively poor. Its sense of hearing and smell are also well-developed, giving it a rich perception of its surroundings. It shares with the Natterjack toad and some other European toads long, horizontal pupils that stretch almost across the entire eyeball; this grants the toad night vision.
There are four subspecies of the European common toad.
- Bufo bufo bufo is native to Scotland, England, Belgium, Germany, France, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden. Growing from 10 to 14 cm long, it is typically light brown, and the legs may be mottled. It is the nominate subspecies and likely the most widely distributed.
Bufo bufo gredosicola is the smallest of the four subspecies, averaging 13 cm in length from snout to vent. B. b. gredosicola is endemic to the Sierra de Gredos in central Spain. It is typically heavilly mottled and may be either gray or brown.
Bufo bufo spinosus is native to the Mediterranean region and is the largest of the four subspecies. Its skin is thicker and more armoured than that of the other three subspecies and is typically dark brown or gray.
Bufo bufo verrucosissima is native to the Caucasus and is the second-largest of the four European common toad subspecies. As with Bufo bufo spinosus, it tends to be relatively dark brown or gray.
Distribution and Habitat Edit
The European common toad is a relatively widely distributed amphibian. It is distributed throughout mainland Europe, and most common in the countries of France, Germany, Belgium, and Spain. While it is less abundant in other European countries, it is still one of the most numerous of all European amphibians. The European common toad is also distributed throughout Britain, Scandinavia, western-central Asia, and northwestern Africa.
Bufo bufo exploits a variety of habitats. It is found in forests, swamps, rivers and streams, meadows, mountainous terrain, semi-arid to arid locations, gardens, parks, and even completely urban areas. Bufo bufo holds the record for the highest and lowest elevation of any amphibian; specimens have been observed at 8,000 metres in the Himalayas and 340 metres below ground in coal mines.
European common toads are opportunistic feeders. Their diet consists primarily of invertebrates, including insects, spiders, worms, and molluscs. Common toads will also eat small reptiles and tiny mammals, and, occasionally, smaller frogs.
Bufo bufo is a highly accurate tongue hunter; it hits its prey dead-on with almost every strike, no matter how small the prey is. Unusually, Bufo bufo lacks the pedicellate teeth found in almost every other frog species, and instead has a hard, bony palate which it uses to crush prey. After being crushed and killed by the bony palate, the prey is swallowed whole.