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The natterjack toad (Epidalea calamita, formerly Bufo calamita) is a toad native to sandy and heathland areas of Europe. Adults are 60–70 mm in length and are distinguished from common toads by a yellow line down the middle of the back, and parallel paratoid glands. They have relatively short legs, and this gives them a distinctive gait, contrasting with the hopping movement of many other toad species.
Natterjacks have a very loud and distinctive mating call, amplified by the single vocal sac found under the chin of the male.
Natterjacks live for up to 15 years and feed on insects, worms and small reptiles. At night they move around open terrain with sparse vegetation, and in loose sand their tracks can often be seen. They move considerable distances each night, enabling the species to colonize new habitats very quickly.
The natterjack toad spawns between the end of April and July, laying strings of eggs in shallow, warm pools. Because the natterjack toad is often present in low numbers, its loud mating calls are important so that the sexes can find each other.
For natterjacks, pools need to have a very slight slope with sparse vegetation on the banks and in the water. As such pools are often temporary, sometimes the tadpoles die when the pools dry out. The natterjack compensates for that risk by mating over an extended period each summer. Thus in September the age of the juveniles can vary from a month to three months. It appears that the early breeders are not the same individuals as the toads that reproduce later in the season.
Populations of the natterjack extend through 17 European countries. In the British Isles the toad is almost completely confined to coastal sites. The natterjack is the only species of toad native to Ireland. It is found on the Dingle peninsula and at Derrynane in County Kerry and also in County Wexford where it was introduced to a dune site.
In mainland Europe, particularly in the southern part of its range, it lives inland in a variety of habitats.
- loss of habitat from human overpopulation
- reduction in habitable coast from construction of dykes and seawalls
- acidification of aquatic habitat from acid rain and other pollution
In England, the toad's sand dune habitat is protected by a number of National Nature Reserves. For example in the north-west there are reserves at Hoylake, Ainsdale Sand Dunes, North Walney and Sandscale Haws. In Scotland, where the species is confined to the Solway Firth, there is a reserve at Caerlaverock. In Wales the species became extinct in the twentieth century, but has been reintroduced.
- The natterjack is a primary character in the book The Time Garden by Edward Eager. In it, the natterjack is portrayed as a magical creature who understands the laws of magic and time and assists the children on their adventures
- Natterjack is a character in the CBeebies show Kerwhizz
- Beja, P. et al. (2008). "Epidalea calamita". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 19 August 2011.
- Viney, M. (4 April 2011). "Here's what biodiversity has done for us". Archived from the original on 20 October 2011.
- Korky, J.K. 2008. Notes on the 2007 breeding season of the Natterjack Toad Epidalea calamita Laurenti (Anura: Bufonidae) in Ireland. Bull. Ir. biogeog. Soc. No 32:21 - 31.
- "North Merseyside Biodiversity Action Plan - Natterjack Toad" (PDF). Archived from the original on 3 August 2014.
- "Natterjack toads return to North Wales". 11 June 2001. Archived from the original on 3 August 2014.
Toads from Merseyside have re-populated former strongholds in sand dunes around Talacre, with the help of The Herpetological Conservation Trust.
Korky, J.K. 2008. Notes on the 2007 breeding season of the Natterjack Toad Epidalea calamita Laurenti (Anura: Bufonidae) in Ireland. Bull. Ir. biogeog. Soc. 32:21 - 31.
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