Common spadefoot toad (Pelobates fuscus)


The Genus Pelobates is an archaic group of spadefoot toads wich includes four species: Pelobates varaldii (west-african distribution), Pelobates cultripes (west-european distribution), Pelobates fuscus (central-eastern distribution) and Pelobates syriacus (eastern distribution).  Only two of these species are found in Romania: Pelobates fuscus and Pelobates syriacus [4, 5, 6,].

The Geographic Range of Pelobates fuscus [7]

The Geographic Range of Pelobates fuscus [7]

The Pelobates fuscus species has a wide but irregular distribution on our country’s territory, within an altitudinal range between 0 and 800 meters [2, 5, 6], the presence or absence of this species in certain areas being correlated with the habitat type.

The Geographic Range of Pelobates fuscus in Romania [2]

The Geographic Range of Pelobates fuscus in Romania [2]

Morphology. This species has a small stocky body, with a prone head and a rounded snout. The pupil has a vertical layout. The forelimbs are not well developed, with medium sized thin toes, the third toe being the longest [5, 6,]. On the shoulders of the male’s forelimbs, we can observe two protuberances similar with epaulets. They are actually glands through which we can distinguish males from females. The hind legs are short and sturdy, with short fingers thinned to the top, with a well developed interdigital membrane. The internal metatarsal tubercle is well differentiated, with a corneous edge in the shape of a shovel, with which individuals can bury themselves in the soil. The skin is smooth, thin with small dorsal underdeveloped warts. The males do not have vocal sacs or nuptial callosities [5, 6,].

Color.  This species has a varied color, ranging from shades of brown, gray-brown, gray, olive, brown, light brown, yellowish-white, with dorsal longitudinal dark-brown or reddish-brown spots, usually located on the sides of the spine. Often presents numerous reddish spots spread all over the body [5, 6,].

Ecology. The common spadefoot toad lives mainly on land, being rarely seen in water outside the reproductive period.  It has a nocturnal activity, during the day it stays buried in the ground at depths of 30-50 cm. We can see this species active after dark feeding on various invertebrates, such as snails, insects and earthworms. The juveniles can also be seen during the day time in rainy days. If disturbed this species glands produce a secretion with a repulsive odor similar to garlic and if it still feels threatened, it swells up, becoming quite hard and makes a sound like a loud meow [5, 6,].

 Breeding. Although this species has no vocal sacs, during the breeding period, males are sitting under the water at the vegetation base, calling the females by emitting sound similar to a clucking hen. The eggs are deposited in the form of gelatinous thick and short strings, attached to vegetation. After egg deposition, the females are emitting the same sound but with a thinner tone in a faster rhythm then the males, in order for them to release the females.  The average number of eggs deposited by a female in one reproductive period is 2300. From the fertilized eggs will hatch the larvae, also called tadpoles, of a brown-tan color. By metamorphosis, the tadpoles can reach large sizes, up to 15-17 cm.  The larvae period can last 2-3 months but, in some cases, they can hibernate in the tadpole form, extending their larvae period until next spring [5, 6,].

Legislation. In Romania, this species is protected by Law 13 of  1993 through which Romania ratified the Berne Convention (Annex II, III), Law no. 462/2001 on protected natural areas, natural habitats, wild flora and fauna (Annex III, IV), Government Emergency Ordinance no. 57/2007 on the statute of protected natural habitats, flora and fauna, as amended and supplemented, considered species whose conservation requires the designation of  special areas of conservation (Annex III),  and species of Community interest that require a strict protection (Annex IV A) [9, 10, 11, 12].

According to the IUCN classification, at a global level, this species has a Least Concern status (LC), and in the Red Book of Vertebrates of Romania it is marked as vulnerable (Vu) [8, 13].


1. Cogălniceanu D., Aioanei F., Bogdan M., (2000): Amfibienii din România, Determinator. Editura Ars Docendi, Bucureşti.

2. Cogălniceanu D., Szekely P., Samoilă C., Iosif R., Tudor M., Plăiaşu R., Stănescu F., Rozylowicz  L., (2013): Diversity and distribution of amphibians in Romania, Zookeys 296:25-57.

3. Covaciu-Marcov S.D., Ghira I., Cicort-Lucaciu Al. Şt.,  Strugariu Al., Bogdan H.V., (2006): Contributions to knowledge regarding the geographical distribution of the herpetofauna of Dobrudja, Romania, North-Western Jurnal of Zoology, Vol. 2, No. 2: 88-125.

4. Ford L.S., Cannatella D.C., (1993): The major clades of frogs. Herpetological Monographs 7: 94-117.

5. Fuhn  I.E.,  (1960):  Amphibia. In: Fauna  R.P.R.,  Vol.  XIV,  Fasc.  1, Ed.  Academiei R.P.R., Bucureşti. [in Ro]

6. Fuhn I.E., (1969): Broaște, șerpi, șopârle. Ed. Ştiinţifică, Bucureşti. [in Ro]

7. Gasc J.P., Cabela A., Crnobrnja-Isailovic, Domen D., Groessenbacher K., Haffner P., Lescure J., Martens H., Marinez Rica J.P., Maurin H., Oliveira M.E., Sofianidou T.S., Veith M., Zuiderwijk A., (1997): Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe. Societas Europaea Herpetologica & Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle Paris.

8. Iftime A., (2005): Reptilia. In: Botnariuc & Tatole (eds): Cartea Roşie a Vertebratelor din România, Ed. Acad. Române, București. [in Ro]

9. ***Legea 13 din 1993 prin care România ratifică Convenţia de la Berna. [in Ro]

10. *** Directiva Europeană 92/43/EEC. [in Ro]

11. ***Legea nr. 462/2001 privind regimul ariilor naturale protejate, conservarea habitatelor naturale, a florei şi faunei sălbatice. [in Ro]

12. ***Ordonanţa de Urgenţă a Guvernului nr. 57/2007 privind regimul ariilor naturale protejate, conservarea habitatelor naturale, a florei şi faunei sălbatice, aprobată cu modificări şi completări ulterioare. [in Ro]

13. ***

14. ***

Text and Photo – Buhaciuc Elena