Readers’ wildlife photos

Today we have some lovely amphibians from Swiss reader and biologist Jacques Hausser. The captions are his.

The two first species belong to the family Bufonidae. Bufo bufo, the common (or European) toad. This one was hiding under rotting bits of bark in a place in the woods where lumberjacks had been working. Toads are rather secretive and mostly nocturnal animals, living quietly in the woods and the gardens. They migrate to water only for reproduction. They hunt on sight (almost 360 degrees of vision !), identifying their prey only if it moves. When in a good position, they project their sticky tongues at the speed of lightning, engulfing slugs, snails, earthworms and insects.

Bufo viridis, the green toad. I found this one in southeast Bulgaria along a small river in the Strandja National Park. The color pattern reminds me a camo uniform, just a bit too flashy.

Pelobates syriacus, the Eastern spadefoot, family Pelobatidae: a young individual I met in the Danube delta, Rumania. The English name comes from a bone protuberance on the hind foot (not visible here) they use to dig their burrows. But more striking is the vertical cat-like pupil.

The European fire-bellied toadBombina bombina, family Bombinidae, is more aquatic than other toads. Seen from above, it is rather inconspicuous…

. . .  but when it is menaced by a predator, it shows its colored underparts and exsudes an liquid irritating the mucosa of would-be predators. Here the same animal as above, caught by a student.

The common frogRana temporaria (Ranidae). A young individual well camouflaged in its preferred habitat, the litter of deciduous wood. Like the toads, they return to water only for reproduction.

. . . and here are the tadpoles of the same species.

Finally, in the same family, the edible frog (edible at least for French speaking Europeans – its legs are really excellent!), an aquatic species… which is not exactly a species! Its Latin name is Pelophylax klepton esculentus, klepton being a word derived from greek “to steal”. It is actually a hybrid between two good species, P. lessonae and P. ridibundus. But the the lessonae genome is not mixed with the ridibundus one by recombination during meiosis. It is totally eliminated: an esculentus produces only ridibundus gametes – eggs or sperm. An esculentus thus needs a lessonae partner to produce further esculentus. The lessonae genome plays its normal part in the somatic cells, but will die with the frog itself. And so this particular lessonae genome is “stolen” and lost in evolution. This process is called hybridogenesis and can be far more complicated; see the details here.


  1. Stephen Barnard
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    I never heard of hybridogenesis before. Nice photos.

  2. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Good stuff! And very informative. I had not heard of hybridogenesis either.

  3. Ruthann
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    I used to see Bufo americanus in my backyard off and on throughout the summer. One year I was digging the borers out of my iris when a large one plopped down near me. It seemed to be checking out what I was doing. I put one of the borers (1 1/2″ long) in front of it, nothing happened. So I picked up the borer and dangled it in front of the toad, then put it down, and presto, it was gone. I put two more down that were moving, and the toad grabbed them immediately. That must have been quite enough, as the toad declined any more.

    • Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      They probably wiggle inside.

      • rickflick
        Posted October 11, 2017 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

        The voice of experience?

    • Paul S
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Summer is spent rescuing toads found swirling in the skimmer. I think they get dizzy because it’s a few minutes before they hop away.

    • Lars
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      I have never heard of a toad declining food before. We had two Great Plains toads in our lab for a while and it seemed to be impossible to satiate them.

  4. barn owl
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    It’s a good start to the day, when there are beautiful amphibian photos posted on PCC(E)’s website. I was trying to decide what I would draw for today’s INKtober challenge, and I think I’ll draw one of these frogs or toads. 🙂

  5. Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    We have a frog known as the wood frog (Rana sylvatica), which is very similar to your common frog. They are so well camoflaged against the dead leaves that when I glance away to check the camera settings I can no longer spot where it is.

    • Jacques Hausser
      Posted October 11, 2017 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      Yes, they are proud members of the “Spot the…” world !

  6. Dee
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I love the wildlife photos, and the commentary that goes with them. Thanks to all the contributors for some great stories and fantastic photos.

  7. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Lovely – we only have bufo americanus here so it’s nice to see other types of toads!

  8. David Coxill
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Crunchy Frog anyone ?.

  9. Heather Hastie
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    A most interesting and enjoyable set of pics and info. Thanks Jacques!

  10. Mark R.
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Those are some nice amphibians. The green toad was my favorite. I used to raise fire bellied toads. It was fun and really easy. I think it was too easy though and now it is illegal to sell them in many states.

  11. Lars
    Posted October 11, 2017 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    So nice to see a gallery of European anurans.

  12. Posted October 11, 2017 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the pics! I think I have heard of something similar to hybridogenesis before (or maybe that IS hybridogenesis), in creating an invasive and extremely successful lionfish hybrid.

  13. Posted October 12, 2017 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    Nice toads pool side, toads don’t have a waist but i’m not shaming them, lordy no…have to say though, Bufo viridis is one sharp looking toad.

  14. Diane G.
    Posted October 14, 2017 at 12:12 am | Permalink

    What great photos and information! So nice to see some colorful toads. For some reason I’d had it in mind that Fire-bellied Toads were tropical–I suppose because of the pets-store connection. Glad to be disabused of that notion!

    Such a fascinating story about the edible frog! First time I’ve heard of hybridogenesis. (A misleading term, to my ears–sounds as if it should refer to the generating of regular old hybrids, not something this unusual. Glad I heard of it and it’s meaning together like this. If that makes sense to anyone but me…) The link was very helpful.

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