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Midwife Toads and Painted Frogs: Discoglossidae - Physical Characteristics

Animal Life ResourceAmphibiansMidwife Toads and Painted Frogs: Discoglossidae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Midwife Toad (alytes Obstetricans): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, DIET, PAINTED FROGS MIDWIFE TOADS AND PEOPLE


Midwife toads and painted frogs are medium-sized frogs that reach about 1.6 to 3 inches (40 to 75 millimeters) long from the snout to the rump. From the outside, the four species of midwife toads look quite different compared to the six painted frog species. The midwife toads have the typical pudgy-looking, warty body and rounded snout of a toad. The painted frogs, on the other hand, look much like the average frog with a trimmer body and a snout that narrows down almost to a point. Sometimes, the painted frogs are quite warty, but even so, they look more like a frog that happens to have warts than like a toad.

The two groups in this family do share several characteristics. Their bodies sit low to the ground, which gives them a squat look. Most of the midwife toads and the painted frogs have warts that are small but noticeable. Some, such as the Iberian midwife toads, even have warts on their eyelids. Both have a thick, disk-shaped tongue that resembles a small, round saucer instead of the long, thin tongue of most other species of frogs. They have large eyes, which may have vertical pupils that look like top-to-bottom slits, or somewhat heart-shaped pupils that are wider at the top than at the bottom.

The skeletons of the midwife toads and painted frogs also have some similar features. For example, the adults have just three ribs. Frogs, including the members of this family, have small, spiky ribs that attach to the backbone but not to the breastbone. Humans, on the other hand, have a full rib cage that is attached to the breastbone in the front and the backbone, or spine, in the back. Different species of frogs have different numbers of ribs, and they are attached to different places in the backbone. The midwife toads and painted frogs have three ribs attached to the second, third, and fourth bones in the spine (counted from the neck down).

The color of these frogs varies from species to species. Many have gray, brown, and black patterns that blend into the background. The midwife toads typically have reddish spots on the tops of their warts, which sometimes form noticeable rows down each side of the body. They are often a lighter color, sometimes white, on the underside. Many painted frogs have obvious dark bands on all four legs and spots and blotches on the back. The now-extinct Hula painted frog had an unusual dark belly that was speckled with white. Its scientific species name is nigriventer, which means a dark underside.

In some cases, members of the same species in this family look quite different. The Corsican painted frog is one such frog. In this species, some individuals are all mostly one color, usually a shade of brown or dark gray, but others are covered with obvious dark spots. In both the midwife toads and painted frogs, the males and females generally look much alike. In some species, such as the Iberian and Mallorcan midwife toads, the male is a bit smaller but otherwise looks very much like the female.

The family as it is listed here includes only the midwife toads and painted frogs. Some people, however, add fire-bellied toads and barbourulas to this family. This book lists them under their own family, called Bombinatoridae.

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