Green toad (Pseudepidalea viridis)
|Also known as:||European green toad|
|Synonyms:||Bufo shaartusiensis, Bufo sitibundus, Bufo viridis, Rana picta|
|Size||Snout-vent length: 4.8 - 12 cm (2)|
- The green toad is one of the commonest toads in parts of Europe.
- The green toad’s call has been likened to the sound of a cricket, a spinning top or a creaking door.
- The green toad can tolerate high temperatures and salinity, and can remain buried in dry soils for several months.
- A highly adaptable species, the green toad lives in a variety of habitats, and can tolerate drier conditions than many other amphibians.
- The green toad is one of only a few amphibian species capable of spawning in brackish water.
The green toad is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).
An attractively patterned amphibian, the green toad (Pseudepidalea viridis) is a medium-sized toad with a light grey to cream or olive back, marked with blotches of olive, green or black (2) (3) (4). The blotches vary in shape, size and number, and often have dark edges (4). A pair of green stripes runs from the eyes to the nostrils (4), and there may be reddish flecks along the flanks (2) (3).
Green toads from more arid regions are often paler in colour, with fewer, smaller blotches, and some individuals have a pale stripe running down the back (3) (4). The belly of this species is greyish to whitish, sometimes with small dark spots (2) (4) (5), and the skin on the green toad’s back is covered in numerous warts (2) (4).
The hind limbs of the green toad are short and there is little webbing between the digits (2) (4) (6). The head is wide (5), with prominent parotoid glands behind the eyes (2) (3) (4), and the pupil of the eye is horizontal (2).
The male green toad is smaller than the female (2) (4) and sometimes has a more greenish back (2). During the breeding season, the male green toad develops hardened pads, known as ‘nuptial pads’, on the first, second and third fingers. These are used to grasp the female during mating (2).
The call of this toad has been likened to the sound of a cricket, a spinning top or the creak of a door (3).
One of the commonest toads in parts of Europe (3), the green toad has a widespread distribution from Germany east to Kazakhstan, and from Estonia and Russia in the north to Greece in the south (1) (2). It is absent from Scandinavia, Britain, France, the Iberian Peninsula and most of Italy (1) (3).
The green toad was also previously thought to occur in parts of North Africa, the Mediterranean islands, the Middle East and Arabia (3) (5) (6), but these populations are now considered to be a separate species (1).
The green toad lives in a wide variety of habitats that include grassland, forest, desert, scrubland, and urban parks and gardens (1) (2). A highly adaptable species (4), this toad inhabits both wet and dry areas, and is more tolerant of dry conditions than many other amphibians (2).
Spawning and larval development occur in a range of permanent and temporary water bodies, including swamps, ponds, streams, rivers, ditches and lakes (1) (2) (4). The green toad is one of only a few amphibian species capable of spawning in brackish water (3).
The green toad can tolerate extreme environmental conditions, such as temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (2) and high degrees of salinity, and it can remain buried for several months at a time in dry soils (7). It is quite tolerant of drying out, regularly visiting water sources at night to rehydrate in dry regions (2).
This species hibernates in many areas, mostly on land but occasionally in water sources such as streams, ditches or wells, either alone or as part of a group. However, in the southernmost parts of its distribution hibernation may not occur, and in some areas aestivation may happen instead. The exact timing of hibernation varies significantly throughout the green toad’s range (2).
The reproductive period of the green toad varies from February to July, depending on the location (2). It is generally longest in the south (2) and can be affected by rainfall (4). The male green toad clasps the female under the front legs during mating, and may hold this position for a few days until the female lays her eggs (3). Spawning usually takes place in water bodies no deeper than 50 centimetres (2). Each female green toad may lay between 5,000 and 13,000 eggs (3), with the eggs being deposited in 2 strings of about 2 to 7 metres in length (2).
The tadpoles of the green toad undergo metamorphosis in spring and summer. The newly metamorphosed juveniles often emerge in large numbers, covering pond shores with thousands of small toadlets. The maximum lifespan of the green toad has been estimated at around seven to ten years (2).
The adult green toad is mainly nocturnal, emerging at dusk to find insects to consume. However, it may also be active in the daytime during the breeding season (2) (3). The adult green toad is mainly terrestrial (7). Green toad tadpoles feed on detritus and algae (2).
If threatened, the green toad may secrete a noxious fluid that has been known to cause discomfort and even convulsions in animals that come into contact with it (3). Despite this, the green toad is included in the diets of many predatory animals, such as snakes (2).
The green toad has an extensive distribution and occurs in a wide range of habitats, including disturbed habitats and urban areas. It is a common species over much of its range, and is not currently considered to be at risk of extinction (1). However, some populations on the edges of its range are small and declining, and the green toad’s overall population is decreasing (1) (2).
The major threat to the green toad is the loss of its breeding habitats due to wetland drainage and aquatic pollution (1) (2) (3). Local population declines are also caused by mortalities on roads (1) (4). On the other hand, human activities sometimes benefit the green toad. Forest clearance may benefit this species by creating more open habitats, and the green toad is often common in cities, particularly in the south of its range, where parks and fountains provide it with suitable wet conditions (2).
The green toad is listed on Appendix II of the Bern Convention (8) and on Annex IV of the EU Habitats Directive (9), which cover species and habitats requiring protection in Europe. This species is also protected by national legislation in many countries and is listed in a number of national Red Data books (1) (2). It is found in several protected areas (1).
Measures to reduce deaths on roads have been established in parts of the green toad’s range (1).
Find out more about the green toad and other amphibians:
More information on amphibian conservation:
IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group:
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- Aestivation: period of dormancy occurring the summer or dry season, comparable to hibernation in winter.
- Algae: simple plants that lack roots, stems and leaves but contain the green pigment chlorophyll. Most occur in marine and freshwater habitats.
- Brackish: slightly salty water, usually a mixture of salt and freshwater, such as that found in estuaries.
- Detritus: litter formed from fragments of dead material.
- Hibernation: a winter survival strategy in which the animal passes the winter in a resting state. This period of inactivity is characterised by specific biological and biochemical changes including lowered blood pressure and respiration rate.
- Larval: of or relating to the immature stage in an animal’s lifecycle, after it hatches from an egg and before it changes into the adult form. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but are usually unable to reproduce.
- Metamorphosis: an abrupt physical change from the larval to the adult form.
- Nocturnal: active at night.
- Parotoid glands: a pair of large, external skin glands which appear as swellings on the shoulders, neck or behind the eye of toads and some salamanders. The parotoid glands secrete a toxic, milky substance to deter predators.
- Spawning: the production or depositing of eggs in water.
IUCN Red List (February, 2011)
AmphibiaWeb - Pseudepidalea viridis (March, 2011)
- Badger, D. (2004) Frogs. Voyageur Press, Minnesota.
- Disi, A.M. and Amr, Z.S. (2010) Morphometrics, distribution and ecology of the amphibians in Jordan. Vertebrate Zoology, 60(2): 147-162.
Salvador, A. (1996) Amphibians of Northwest Africa. Smithsonian Herpetological Information Service, Washington D.C. Available at:
- Baha El Din, S. (2006) A Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Egypt. American University in Cairo Press, Cairo.
- Wells, K.D. (2007) The Ecology and Behavior of Amphibians. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Council of Europe: Bern Convention (May, 2012)
EU Habitats Directive (May, 2012)