Betic Midwife Toad (Alytes dickhilleni). Great Malaga Path
This is an anura (amphibian without a tail as an adult ) small (less than 5.5 cm in total length) with a very smooth skin. The colour on the back varies from whitish or ochre to brown, but always with dark greenish spots. The legs are short and strong. On the hands it has three characteristic palm tubers, short and strong. The pupil is vertical. The larvae can grow to a large size (up to 7 cm total length). The tail is very long and ends in a rounded tip. The larva's colour pattern is very variable, from ochre or grey to dark brown, or almost black on the back. They have two dark parallel bands along the tail and another dark one at the beginning of the dorsal fin in the shape of V, H or M.
WHERE DOES IT LIVE (HABITAT)
It is a forest species linked to mountain areas, present from low altitudes to high mountain areas. To reproduce, it needs small water masses, so it does not usually get very far from streams, ponds, watering holes, pools and fountains.
HOW DOES IT LIVE?
Adults are basically nocturnal, hiding during the day in shelters such as rocks cracks or slopes holes and stone walls. They do not have much displacement capacity, so they do not usually move far away from the water locations where they reproduce. They have very terrestrial habits. Adult males get closer to the water only while the larvae hatch up. Adults hunt small arthropods. The larvae mainly feed on algae and organic detritus.
HOW DOES IT REPRODUCE?
The Betic midwife toad's reproduction is very special. Three characteristics defines it: 1) the eggs are not fertilized in the water, but in the terrestrial environment; 2) the eggs are protected during their embryonic development; and 3) it is the male, and not the female, that takes over the eggs until they hatch. The midwife toads species are unique among amphibians because of their parental care towards the larvae. The mating period is very prolonged in Malaga, ranging from mid-December to mid-August. The larvae have a very long development, from 3 months to more than a year. For this reason, larvae can be found in water points practically throughout the year. When they go into heat, the males emerge from their shelters and emit a piping and repetitive claim that attracts the females to where they are. The amplexus, the union or hug of the male with the female, occurs on land. The female transfers a cord of more than 70 eggs to the male, which fecundates them and fixes it on its hind legs, carrying it for about a month. It will only approach the water to lay eggs when the larvae are already developed, very shortly before the hatching time.
WHERE CAN WE SEE IT IN MALAGA AND ON THE STAGES OF THE GREAT PATH?
It is a very scarce species with a very restricted distribution in the Malaga province, it is present exclusively in the Natural Park of the Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama mountain ranges. In the Great Path, we can only find it in stages 5 to 8.
LEVEL OF PROTECTION - THREAT (INVENTORY)
It is included as a vulnerable species in the Andalusian Catalog of Endangered Species. It is an endemic species, with most of its population located in Andalusia. Its small distribution area and the threats it suffers, such as the loss of breeding habitats or the recent appearance of a fungal disease called "chytridomycosis", which especially affects this frog, place it in a delicate conservation state.
The name of this toad refers to the fact that males take care of the eggs, since they are fertilized until they are deposited in the water for the larvae to hatch. That is why they are called "midwife". Moreover, the males do not only carry the eggs of one mother, but are usually promiscuous and carry the eggs of two and up to three females.
SIMILAR SPECIES (IT CAN BE MISTAKEN WITH...)
It is an unmistakable type in Malaga. The large size of the larvae, their line design and dark spots on the tail also make them easily distinguishable.