The European fire bellied toad is found across parts of Europe where it may also be referred to as the fiery toad, fire frog and ringing frog.
These amphibians are named for the bright patterning on their underside which is typically hidden away while the mottled browns and greens of the back provide camouflage. If threatened though they flash their underside at the predator to indicate they are poisonous.
They are carnivores in their adult stage feeding on insects but as tadpoles mainly feed on algae.
European fire-bellied toads have come under threat across their range due to habitat destruction and alteration, vehicle strikes and collection for the pet trade.
Read on the learn more about these amazing amphibians.
The European fire-bellied toad is named for the vibrant red and yellow patches which contrast against the black background color of the belly.
Despite this they remain well camouflaged with the back being covered by warty skin which is black or dark brown. This is mottled with dark spots and green patches on the shoulder. This pattern is unique on each frog and is similar to a human fingerprint.
Their eye features a central, black, triangular shaped pupil.
An average European fire-bellied toad measures 5cm (12in) long. Males tend to have slightly larger heads than females.
European fire-bellied toads are carnivores in their adult form. They primarily feed on invertebrates.
Their tongue cannot be extended out of the mouth and as such is not used during feeding. Instead they primarily hunt already deceased insects.
Europe is the native home of the European fire-bellied toad. Here they can be found in Austria; Belarus; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; Czechia; Denmark; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Kazakhstan; Latvia; Lithuania; Moldova; Poland; Romania; Russian Federation; Serbia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Sweden; Turkey and the Ukraine.
They have been introduced to the United Kingdom.
European fire-bellied toads live in areas of forest, grasslands and wetlands. They are primarily associated with lowland areas which feature a river valley or temporary lakes and ponds. Most watercourses they inhabit are shallow.
They have been recorded from man-made water courses including irrigation channels, rice fields and quarries.
These animals have a preference for areas with a relatively warm climate.
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Breeding occurs in ponds with a good growth of sub-aquatic vegetation. Breeding takes place from May until the end of summer. Males will call at dusk while floating on the water’s surface or some have been recorded doing this underwater.
During this period the males will develop nuptial pads on their fingers which help them to grip on to the female.
Females will lay a clutch of between 80 and 300 eggs. These will hatch within days but they then spend 2 to 2.5 months as a tadpole in the water before undergoing metamorphosis and emerging as an adult frog.
Recently metamorphosed young are most often found near the water’s edge.
In their tadpole form they primarily feed on algae.
The European fire-bellied toad has been recorded to produce a hybrid with the yellow-bellied toad (Bombina variegata).
Sexual maturity is reached between one and two years old.
The call of the European fire-bellied toad produces a triple “oop” call. Their call has been compared to that of an owl.
Where they live in cold climates the European fire-bellied toad will undertake a hibernation under a log or stone. They may also undertake this period of hibernation in mud under the water.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the European fire-bellied toad include birds of prey such as herons.
When threatened they will turn over revealing the bright patterns on their underside which indicates to predators they are poisonous. This poison is secreted through their skin.
While still considered common across much of their range the European fire-bellied toad population is currently listed as decreasing in size.
They are threatened through vehicle strikes, collection for the pet trade and hybridization with the yellow-bellied toad (Bombina variegata). Infections of chytrid fungus have been recorded in this species. Their bright coloration has made them popular within the pet trade.
The largest threat to their future survival is the destruction of wetlands.
In parts of their range the population has benefited from the increasing availability of irrigated areas which they can inhabit.
Across their range they go by a number of alternative common names including the fire toad, fire frog and ringing frog.
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Benny Trapp, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Richard Adams, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Marek Szczepanek, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons
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