4. The Midwife toad

Posted: 23 March 2001

The Mallorcan Midwife Toad or Ferreret (Alytes muletensis) is one of the world's rarest amphibians. Confined to a few remote ravines in the mountains of Mallorca, it is found only at high altitudes where snakes that prey on it in the rest of the island cannot live.

© Alessio Pettreti/WWF/Panda PhotoIt breeds readily in captivity and has been the subject of a captive breeding programme based at several places across Europe. For severalyears, captive-reared animals have been successfully reintroduced to Mallorca,with the result that the number of localities where the species now lives hasbeen doubled.Midwife toad© Thomas StephanAs in other midwife toads, the male cares for the eggs until they hatch, carrying them in strings entwined around his hind legs. This 'sex role reversal' leads to a situation in which females often have to compete for the parental services of males, by calling to them and sometimes byfighting one another.

Dr Tim Halliday

Dr Halliday is Professor in Biology at The Open University and International Director of Declining Amphibian Task Force.