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Common Toad (Bufo spinosus). Great Malaga Path

Diputación de Málaga
Sapo común (Bufo spinosus)

Common Toad (Bufo spinosus). Great Malaga Path

Active adults Larvae in the water
Animal Life > Amphibians


This is an anuran (amphibian without a tail once an adult) with a robust appearance and a large size (up to 12 cm of total length for males and 14 cm for females). The head is not very large with respect to the body, although it is very wide and the eyes are very pronounced. Its skin is rough with abundant warts covering the entire body. It exhibits a very variable colouration in which brown or reddish-orange tones predominate. The pupil is horizontal. The iris is reddish and the parotid glands (glands located behind the eye and on the eardrum which serve to secrete defensive toxins against predators) are very evident, large and oblique. The larvae are small (less than 3.5 cm in total length), bright black and with small gold or silver specks.


This species is present in very diverse habitats, with a certain preference for forest and scrub areas. For reproduction, it usually uses small and slow or calm water streams with a certain depth, as well as large ponds or pools.


Adults are basically nocturnal and have very terrestrial habits, going to the water only to reproduce. They exhibit a great ability to travel, covering kilometres every year to go back to the same place of reproduction. Adults feed on a wide variety of invertebrates, mainly arthropods, and can occasionally catch other amphibians. The tadpoles are herbivores, although they also take advantage of carrion.


The males arrive at the water points before the females each breeding season at the end of winter. Once females are there, they are attracted by the modest males' song, after which the amplexus takes place (hug in which the male is mounted on the female), when the male fertilizes the long string of eggs that the female is laying in the water. Sometimes tough, fights between different males happen for the same female. A single female can lay up to 8,000 eggs which, one or two weeks later, will give rise to a myriad of small dark tadpoles. The larvae complete their development in 2 to 4 months; then they undergo a metamorphosis that will turn them into tiny toads, ending up growing and reaching a considerable size: the common toad is the amphibian of the greatest size in the Iberian Peninsula.


It is a common and abundant species, present in most of the Malaga province. It only seems to be lacking in a large part of the western half of the Northern region. In the Great Path, we can find it on all stages, except on 17 and 18.


The common toad is not part of the Wildlife Species under Special Protection List, which means that it is not a protected species. Their populations have suffered a significant decline due to habitat transformations, especially in agricultural areas, and the general loss of small water masses for different reasons. In addition, every year there are large casualties due to road accidents. 


Despite moving slowly and looking somewhat clumsy, the common toad is able to develop different strategies to deal with its predators. The first one is the secretion of toxic substances thanks to its parotid glands. These "bufotoxins" tend to spread throughout the skin and make it very unpleasant. The second one is to increase considerably in size to appear more fearsome. It achieves this by holding air and lifting the hind legs, while lowering its head. Despite all this, it does not always win the war. The common toads are hunted by water snakes, several types of birds of prey and by the otter, which before devouring it, knows how to remove the skin as if it were a glove, turning it inside out, thus avoiding its unpleasant taste.


It can be mistaken with the natterjack toad due to its size and warty skin. The yellow or greenish iris and the vertical pupil of the latter species, their parallel parotid glands, as well as the usual presence of a very clear vertebral line and red spots (absent in the common toad) are differentiating features. On the other hand, the larvae of both species are very similar, making it very hard to distinguish. The usual presence of metal specks on the black background of common toad larvae, especially in the advanced stages of their development, can help with their identification. However, the most useful criteria is usually the type of water masses where the larvae are found: shallow and seasonal in the natterjack toad, whereas deeper and more durable in the common toad.

Routes where it can be observed

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