We have three kinds of amphibians in the UK – frogs, toads and newts. Frogs and toads look rather alike in body shape but frogs have smooth skins and toads have rough warty ones like the photo above. Our frogs, toads and newts spend the first stage of their life in the water. They are survivors from an age before the dinosaurs but habitat loss and disturbance, climate change and increased ultra violet radiation, which may leave them vulnerable to infections, are threatening their future (Kieseker et al., 2001). They are declining faster than mammals or birds (Beebee & Griffiths, 2005).
These magical animals, some with glistening irridescent skins and human like faces, even have different individual personalities. The timid tadpole in your garden pond grows up to be a timid frog, even though the metamorphosis from tadpole to frog seems such a huge change (Wilson & Krause, 2012). Some species can even recognise their siblings, those that are hatched from the same blob of spawn (Ogurtsov, 2004). Moonlight influences their lives and their mating (Grant et al., 2013)
Anybody with a garden can do something to help – build a garden pond which is friendly to frogs, toads and newts. Today’s farmers often fill in ditches and ponds which are used by frogs and toads. Many of the ponds in agricultural land are full of chemical run-off from pesticides and fertilisers, which may be causing deformities (Kiesecker, 2004). If you keep chemicals to a minimum in your garden, the amphibians will have a new habitat. Make sure the water weeds you put in your pond are native species and don’t add fish which will eat the tadpoles. For a guide look here
You can also help by joining a toad patrol, to help this slow moving animal cross roads during the mating season. Details for the UK are here. One estimate suggests that as many as 20% of a local toad population may be killed on the road if there is busy traffic and if they cross the road at an angle, being therefore on the tarmac for longer (Hels, & Buchwald, 2001). Frogs and toads may also freeze in car lights, a reaction which might save them being eaten by a predator but not from being squashed by a vehicle (Lima et al., 2014).
If you have a sudden decline or even the disappearance of frogs or toads in your garden pond, contact Froglife. There is a virus(Teacher et al., 2010) and a fungus infection which are leading to population declines. Take a photo of any dead frogs to help identify what might be going on.
This website deals only with the common frog (Rana temporaria), the common toad (Bufo bufo) and the smooth newt (Tristatus vulgaris). I wasn’t going to add newts but I got fascinated by their courtship dances in my pond. Helpful links can be found below the index and the references.
HOW AND WHEN DO FROGS MATE?
HOW AND WHEN DO TOADS MATE?
HOW AND WHEN DO NEWTS MATE?
MAKING A FROG FRIENDLY POND
FROG DEATHS AND DISEASES
HOW CAN I STOP MY CAT OR MY DOG CATCHING FROGS?
RARER TOADS AND NEWTS – coming later
CAN FROGS MATE WITH TOADS AND VISA VERSA?
IS IT A FROG OR A TOAD?
HOW DO TADPOLES DEVELOP?
Beebee, T. J. C. & Griffith, R. A., (2005), ‘The amphibian decline crisis: A watershed for conservation biology?,’ Biological Conservation, 125, 271–285
Grant, R., Halliday, T. & Chadwick, E., (2013), ‘Amphibians and the lunar cycle: a review of current knowledge, recommendations and implications for conservation,’ Behavioral Ecology, 24, 53-62.
Hels, T. & Buchwald E., (2001) ‘The effect of road kills on amphibian populations.” in eds: Irwin, C. L., Garrett, P., McDermott, K. P.,Proceedings of the 2001 International Conference on Ecology and Transportation, 25-42.
Kiesecker, J.M., Blaustein, A. R. & Belden, L.K., (2001), ‘Complex causes for amphibian decline,’ Nature, 140, 681-684.
Kiesecker, J.M., (2004), ‘Amphibian decline and emerging disease,’ American Scientist, 92, 138-147
Lima, S.L., Blackwell, B. F., DeVault, T.L. & Fernandez-Juricic,, E.,(2014), ‘Animal reactions to oncoming vehicles: a conceptual review,’ Biological Reviews, no pages yet
Ogurtsov, S. V. (2004), ‘Olfactory orientation in anuran amphibians,’ Russian Journal of Herpetology, 11, 35-40
Teacher, A. G. F., Cunningham, A. A. & Garner, T. W. J., (2010), ‘Assessing the long-term impact of Ranavirus infection in wild common frog populations,’ Animal Conservation, 13, 514–522
Amphibians and reptiles. Froglife has most of what you need to know on frogs, toads and newts in the UK pond. Froglife has pdfs on how to make a pond or restore a pond. It has up-to-date info/symptoms on the two main disease threats to UK amphibians; chytrid fungus and ranavirus (often called ‘red-leg’). It also has a really useful map for finding your local toad rescue and a scheme for insuring toad patrols.
Pond Conservation. Charity which encourages the restoration of ruined of polluted ponds, the conservation of existing ponds, and the formation of new ponds.
Amphibian conservation world wide – the Amphibian and Reptiles Conservation Trust