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What is the Natterjack Toad?

By B. Koch
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The natterjack toad, Epidalea calamita, is native to many areas of Europe. It thrives in shallow waters and sandy environments and can be identified by the yellow stripe down its back. It is known for its noisy croaking and has a tendency to run instead of leaping or jumping.

Native to Europe, the natterjack toad can be found in the southern, western and northern parts of the continent. Countries to which it is native include Spain, Denmark, Sweden, western Ukraine, and Estonia. Natterjacks also live in the United Kingdom and Ireland, although they are rare in these areas.

Thriving mostly in saltwater marshes and heathland, the natterjack toad can also be found living in sandy coastal dunes. It is not unusual to find these creatures in mountains, semi-desert environments or in forest glens and meadows. Natterjacks can also be found in gardens and parks, but generally, they are attracted to areas with light, sandy soils and shallow water. As they are not very good swimmers, they cannot survive in deep waters or lakes that do not have extensive shallow areas.

Covered in a mottled dark and light brown or green pattern, sometimes with red markings, the natterjack toad is most easily identified by the thin yellow line that runs down the center of its back. At the metamorphosis stage, these toads are 0.27 to 0.39 inches (7 to 10 millimeters) long, and an adult natterjack toad may reach 1.9 to 2.8 inches (50 to 70 millimeters) long. The natterjack, also known as the running toad, can also be distinguished by its short hind legs, which keep him from jumping or leaping, requiring him to run instead.

These toads are known for their impressive vocal abilities. Some male natterjack toads can be heard several miles (1 mile = 1.6 kilometers) away. They are sometimes called Europe's noisiest amphibian.

Falling into the category of endangered toads, the natterjack is especially rare in the northern and eastern parts of its range, such as in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Estonia. This is mostly due to the loss of their habitat. The decline of heathland and sand dunes by encroaching scrub and woodland has decreased the toad's livable area, as has pollution, development, and the drying up of ponds. In the United Kingdom, efforts have been made to protect and build suitable ponds for the natterjack toad.

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