Yellow Bellied Toad (Bombina variegata)

by Paul White RN FRGS - TWP Founder & Director

Although relatively rare in Europe the Yellow Bellied Toad can be found in large numbers within the East Carpathians. On field trips we find large concentrations of toads in water filled ruts caused by numerous logging trucks entering the forests. This is probably one of the few positive spin-off's from the ongoing deforestation, although many are also crushed by such transportation.

The TWP has found much literature on this species,  but little on their behaviour. We soon learned that when handling these toads in a specific way, they would display consistent defensive behaviour, e.g. when turned upside down they would stop moving and 'play dead'.

Description - Their back is light brown sometimes with darker blotches of brown (usually on a large area of warts). They get their name from their unique belly colour and pattern, it is yellow with dark brown or dark gray (sometimes even dark blue) spots and blotches linked sometimes (the distribution of yellow/darker areas is an identification key for specimens within a population).[1]

Range & Distribution - This species is distributed over much of central and southern Europe. It is generally present from central France through central Germany and northern and western Switzerland, north-eastern Italy, the Balkan region and the Carpathian Mountains. Isolated populations are present in Hungary and northern Germany, and its range in northwestern France is now severely fragmented. It is probably extinct in Belgium and some populations have been lost in the south of France. There is only one population remaining in Luxembourg, and the same is true in the Netherlands. The presence of isolated populations in southwestern France (Medoc and Landes) requires confirmation. It has been introduced to the United Kingdom, but it is not known if the species is still present and is not mapped here. The species has an altitudinal range of 100-2,100m asl. Its distribution in western and north-western parts of its range is more fragmented than is shown on the distribution map.[2]

Habitat & Ecology - The TWP has found direct evidence that the toad is located in coniferous, deciduous and mixed forests, bushlands and meadows, floodplains and grasslands. At low elevations this species lives in deciduous forests, at higher altitudes it is more often found in coniferous forests and highland glades. The species uses many types of wetland, including lakes, ponds, swamps, rivers, stream pools, springs (including mineral and thermal springs), puddles, reservoirs, gravel and clay pits, ditches and even water filled wheel ruts. The breeding habitats are typically unshaded temporary pools within, or close to, woodland. The species can tolerate slight water pollution, and has been recorded at very high densities in areas of cleared woodland in the Carpathian Mountains. This species regularly hybridizes with B. bombina in many contact areas.[3]

End notes:-



Bannikov, A. G., Darevsky, I. S. and Rustamov, A. K. (1971). Zemnovodnye i Presmykayushchienya SSSR [Amphibians and Reptiles of the USSR]. Izdatelistvo Misl, Moscow.

Bannikov, A. G., Darevsky, I. S., Ishchenko, V. G., Rustamov, A. K., and Szczerbak, N. N. (1977). Opredelitel Zemnovodnykh i Presmykayushchikhsya Fauny SSSR [Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of the USSR Fauna]. Prosveshchenie, Moscow.

Gasc, J. P. , Cabela, A., Crnobrnja-Isailovic, J., Dolmen, D., Grossenbacher,K., Haffner, P., Lescure, J., Martens, H., Martinez Rica, J. P.,Maurin, H., Oliveira, M. E., Sofianidou, T. S., Vaith, M., and Zuiderwijk, A. (1997). Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe. Societas Europaea Herpetologica and Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris.

Kuzmin, S. L. (1995). Die Amphibien Russlands und angrenzender Gebiete. Westarp Wissenschaften, Magdeburg.

Kuzmin, S. L. (1999). The Amphibians of the Former Soviet Union. Pensoft, Sofia-Moscow.

Nöllert, A. (1996). ''Verbreitung, Ökologie und Schutz der Gelbbauchunke.'' Naturschutzreport, 11(1), 1-260.

Nöllert, A. and Nöllert, C. (1992). Die Amphibien Europas. Franckh-Kosmos Verlags-GmbH and Company, Stuttgart.

Szczerbak, N. N. and Szczerban, M. I. (1980). Zemnovodnye i Presmykayushchiesya Ukrainskikh Karpat [Amphibians and Reptiles of Ukrainian Carpathians]. Naukova Dumka, Kiev.