from delete page (Fire-bellied toad)
The Fire-bellied Toads are a group of eight species of small toads (typically 4-7cm in length) belonging to the genus Bombina
They used to be classified under the family Discoglossidae (which relates to the fact that they cannot fold out their disc-shaped tongue, contrary to the other toads and frogs). Differences in morphology, biology and behaviour, have led them to be classified in their own family, together with the genus Barbourula.
They are found across much of Europe and Asia, staying in water or near the shore. They prefer a temperature of 18 -20 Celsius. The largest fire-bellied toad is the Giant Fire-bellied Toad (Bombina maxima), attaining a length of 6-7 cm, living in the highlands of Southern China.
Their name derives from the brightly coloured red and yellow patterns on their warty bellies, which act as a warning to predators of their foul taste. The other parts of the toads' skins have more neutral colours such as green or dark brown.
- Bombina bombina Linnaeus, 1761 : European Fire-bellied Toad
- Bombina fortinuptialis Tian & Wu, 1978 : Guangxi Fire-bellied Toad, Large-spined Bell Toad
- Bombina lichuanensis : Lichuan Bell Toad.
- Bombina maxima Boulenger, 1905 : Giant Fire-bellied Toad, Large-webbed Bell Toad
- Bombina microdeladigitoria Liu, Hu & Yang, 1960 : Hubei Fire-bellied Toad, Small-webbed Bell Toad.
- Bombina pachypus : Appenine Yellow-bellied Toad.
- Bombina orientalis Boulenger, 1890 : Oriental Fire-bellied Toad
- Bombina variegata Linnaeus, 1758 : Yellow-bellied Toad
Between April and May, they mate several times with the male embracing the female ( = amplexus) in the pelvic region. She secures her 80 - 300 eggs in globs on stalks or blades hanging in water. The larvae develop in pools or puddles. Their metamorphosis is complete within a few weeks, peaking in July - August. The toadlets attain a length of 1.2 – 1.5 cm. But the breeding period extends till the end of summer. The eggs, laid in August, metamorphose only after the winter, with the toadlets attaining a length of 3 – 5 cm. These toadlets still have a white belly. They reach their sexual maturity in the 2nd-4th year of life.
Although distinct in morphology and generally regarded as separate species, the Yellow-Bellied Toad, Bombina variegata, from western Europe, and the European Fire-Bellied Toad, Bombina bombina, from eastern Europe and Asia are able to interbreed and produce fertile offspring. Where their habitats overlap a 10km wide hybrid zone has formed, where these hybrids flourish. This serves as a counter-example to the common definition of species which states that members of different species must not be able to breed to produce fertile offspring.
They can be easily be kept as exotic pets in an aqua-terrarium, because they are robust, flamboyant and long lived amphibians. In captivity they can live to be 12 years, and there are even a few cases known of fire-bellied toads attaining the ripe old age of 29 years !
The destruction of wetlands poses a serious threat for the survival of most of these species.
Menno Schilthuizen (2001). Frogs, Flies & Dandelions. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-850393-8