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Midwife Toads and Painted Frogs: Discoglossidae

Painted Frog (discoglossus Pictus): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: The painted frog is a rather wide, little frog with long hind limbs and shorter, but stocky forelegs. Its front feet have no webs between the toes, but the back toes are webbed. It is yellowish to greenish brown with long, dark, greenish brown markings. The markings may be bands or oval spots and are sometimes outlined in a lighter color. They usually have a brown band between the eyes. Often, just behind the barely noticeable eardrum, they have a thin paratoid gland that reaches back like a little ridge. The frog has a wide head with a rather pointy snout and big eyes centered with pupils that have shapes described as either hearts or upside down teardrops. Its back has scattered warts. The typical painted frog grows to 2.8 to 3.1 inches (7 to 8 centimeters) long.

The painted frog's call sounds somewhat like the hushed chuckle a person might make in a library. (Illustration by Patricia Ferrer. Reproduced by permission.)

Geographic range: Painted frogs live along the Mediterranean Sea in the northeastern African countries of Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco; in Sicily, which is a southern island of Italy; and on the small Mediterranean islands of Malta and Gozo. Some have also been introduced to areas in France and Spain.

Habitat: Painted frogs live in freshwater and sometimes somewhat salty waters, usually preferring streams or small puddles. People often see them at night in the water filling tire ruts or the hoof prints of cattle. They frequently live near humans, making their homes in orchards or other farm fields, in wells and canals, or in campgrounds.

Diet: Their diet includes insects and other invertebrates.

Behavior and reproduction: Painted frogs use their strong front legs to dig burrows under stones, where they hide during the daytime. At night, they become active and begin looking for food. Their mating season runs almost all year—from January to early November. The males go to the water and give a call that sounds somewhat like the hushed chuckle a person might make in a library. To mate, a male climbs onto the female's back, grabbing her above her hind legs. Over the next half hour to two hours, she lays as many as 50 eggs while the male clings to her back. Afterward and on that same night, she may mate with many other males. The busiest of females may mate with about 20 different males and lay one thousand eggs in a single night. She drops her eggs one by one. They either clump together on the water surface or sink. In about six days, the eggs hatch into tadpoles, which change into froglets one to three months later. The froglets continue to grow and are mature enough to mate the following year.

Painted frogs and people: Because the females can lay so many eggs over a very short time, scientists sometimes use them in laboratory experiments, which may study how eggs develop.

Conservation status: This species is not considered to be at risk. In some places, however, farmlands have disappeared, and the frogs have vanished with them. ∎



Arnold, E. Nicholas. Reptiles and Amphibians of Europe (Princeton Field Guides). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003.

Arnold, E. N., J. A. Burton, and D. W. Ovenden. Reptiles and Amphibians of Britain & Europe (Collins Field Guide). London: HarperCollins Publishing Limited, 1999.

Duellman, William E., and Linda Trueb. Biology of Amphibians. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

Gasc, Jean-Pierre, et al., eds. Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe. Paris: Societas Europea Herpetologica and Muséum National d'Histoire, 1997.

Miller, Sara Swan. Frogs and Toads: The Leggy Leapers. New York: Franklin Watts, 2000.

Zug, George R., Laurie J. Vitt, and Janalee P. Caldwell. Herpetology. 2nd edition. San Diego: Academic Press, 2001.

Web sites:

"Discoglossidae." AmphibiaWeb. http://elib.cs.berkeley.edu/aw/lists/Discoglossidae.shtml (accessed on February 7, 2005).

"Discoglossus nigriventer." Recently Extinct Animals. http://home.hetnet.nl/harrie.maas/speciesinfo/palestinianpaintedfrog.htm (accessed on February 7, 2005).

"Mallorcan Midwife Toad Saved from Extinction." Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. http://www.durrellwildlife.org/index.cfm?p=295 (accessed on February 7, 2005).

"The Mallorcan Midwife Toad." Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. http://www.durrellwildlife.org/index.cfm?p=60 (accessed on February 7, 2005).

Additional topics

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