Majorcan midwife toad

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The Majorcan midwife toad is a small amphibian living only on a single island in Europe. This island’s name is Majorca, hence this toad’s name. This island is a Spanish island, so Majorca is not actually the way it is spelled. The correct spelling is Mallorca, which is pronounced the same way as Majorca. English speaking countries often spell this island with a “j”, because that is how it is pronounced.

Most places you see this toad’s name, it will be the Mallorcan midwife toad, but I think it makes more sense to spell it the way it is pronounced. Sometimes this animal will be called the “ferreret,” which is actually its Spanish name.

There are currently five known species of midwife toads, all living in Europe. This species is the smallest of all of them. Its body is a pale golden brown color with plenty of dark speckles. These speckles can be black, dark brown, or even dark green. Their undersides are off-white. The males and females have similar markings, so they are quite hard to tell apart. Majorcan midwife toads are nocturnal, and because of that, they have huge eyes that bulge out of their head.

Size

This species of toad is rather small. Their maximum size is just 1.6 inches (4 cm) long! Females, which are larger than the males, are typically around 1.5 inches (38 mm), and the males are about 1.4 inches (34.7 mm). So, as you can see, there’s not a huge difference in size, but that’s what happens with so small animals.

Diet

There is very little information available on the feeding habits of this particular species of midwife toad. The adults are, understandably, insectivores.  I found information and midwife toads in general saying they eat worms, caterpillars, spiders, snails, worms, and beetles. Many of those are probably true for this species, but maybe not snails and millipedes, as those are normally larger than the others.

Habitat and range

I already mentioned that Majorcan midwife toads live only on the island of Majorca, but if you’re like me, you probably hadn’t heard of that island before reading this. The island, which is even smaller than Rhode Island, is off the south-eastern coast of Spain. In the map below, the box in the top left shows Spain in gray. The three islands that a circled there are the three groups of islands shown below. This toad’s range is shown in green on only the island of Majorca.

The reason they only live on the northern portion of this island is because that is where the habitat is most suitable for them. This area is a small mountain range. During the day, they hide in crevices and under stones. Scientists first found out about this toad from fossils, and they were presumed to be extinct until 1977 when people found real ones for the first time. Their small size, small range, and habits of hiding made them extremely hard to find!

Status and threats

The Majorcan midwife toad is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Redlist. Surprisingly, they used to be classified as “Critically endangered,” but recent counts have shown that their numbers are increasing. In 2004, counts showed 30,000 tadpoles! That may not sound like a whole lot for an entire species of animal, but with such a small range it is a good number.

As with almost all animals, this toad’s biggest threat is habitat destruction and pollution. The chytrid fungus that has been ravaging amphibian populations around the world has not yet reached the Majorcan midwife toad, but it is presumed it will soon. They have very few natural predators, mostly consisting of snakes.

Reproduction

These toads have an interesting way of reproduction. Like most toad species, the female lays the eggs and the male fertilizes them. Unlike most toads, the eggs are laid on the male’s back. If this sounds somewhat familiar, you might be thinking of the Suriname toad. The female of that species will keep the eggs on her back while they develop.

The way midwife toads reproduce is different, though. When the female lays the eggs, the male wraps the string of eggs around his lower body. I couldn’t find a picture of this particular species carrying eggs, but I did find the picture below, which is a different species of midwife toad carrying eggs.

Majorcan midwife toads usually only lay 7-12 eggs at a time, whereas other species can have twice as many. The main reason for this is because their eggs are larger, about 0.2 inches (6 mm) in diameter.

The male protects the eggs until they are ready to hatch. At this time he will crawl into a water source and the tadpoles will hatch and swim away. Most tadpoles take two to four months to metamorphosize, and depending on how late in the year they were born, some will stay through the winter as tadpoles, not changing until the next year. It is unknown how long these creatures live.

Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!

Sources:

Photo credits:

  • Majorcan midwife toad – Wikipedia user – tuurio and wallie
  • Majorcan midwife toad range – Wikipedia user: Alalonso
  • Midwife toad with eggs – Wikipedia user: B kimmel
  • Mystery animal – Wikipedia user: KeresH
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