Amphibians are cold-blooded creatures that spend part of their life cycle in fresh water and some on land. Frogs, toads and newts all lay eggs in water and hatch out as tadpoles with gills for life underwater. As they grow they develop legs and lungs which allow them to move about on land as well. This is where they will spend the majority of their adult lives.
There are three types of amphibian found in the UK; frogs, toads and newts. The UK's wetland habitats that support these species – for at least part of there life cycle - are being destroyed or neglected to make way for agriculture or development. Additionally, ponds can become polluted by run off from fields or roads, making them unsuitable for amphibians. Even garden ponds can be a problem for amphibians as they are preyed upon by cats or even get poisoned by slug pellets. There has been a global decline of amphibians which is mirrored in the UK.
Common frog (Rana temporaria)
The common frog can be found in most parts of the UK and seen from March to October. During winter they hibernate underground, in the base of plants or underwater. They like damp woodlands, meadows, gardens and require ponds to breed in. They feed upon insects, slugs and small worms. Fully grown, the male is approximately 7cm, with the female being slightly larger. They can be separated from toads as they have a smooth skin compared to the toad’s warty upperparts. Also to touch frogs feel wet and toads dry, frogs have two ridges down their back and the toad is flatter, finally frogs hop and toads walk!
The common frog is a priority species within the Glasgow Local Biodiversity Action Plan.
Common toad (Bufo bufo)
This is Britain’s largest and heaviest amphibian. Females can reach lengths of almost 10cm! Toads have orange eyes and a broad squat body with a blunter snout than frogs. Their bodies are warty all over, especially on the back and sides. The colour of a toad depends on its surroundings; if the soil is brown it will look brown and if the soil is grey it will appear grey. Colour also varies with sex and age. They can be extremely hard to spot as they can sit in the same position for hours at a time. They have two glands behind their eyes that secrete a bad tasting, irritating solution that burns the mouths of predators that try to eat them. Like frogs they prefer damp woodland, scrub and gardens and require ponds for breeding. They eat all sorts of invertebrates - slugs, worms and insects – and are opportunistic feeders, using their long sticky tongue to catch their prey. Larger toads can even eat harvest mice which they swallow whole! They live in small burrows for shelter and mainly come out to feed at night. Like frogs they hibernate and spend most of their adult life on land.
The common toad is also a priority species within the Glasgow Local Biodiversity Action Plan.
Smooth/common newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)
The smooth newt is the most common species of newt across the UK. Its skin is soft and appears smooth in water. It has a long tail and in total measures approximately 10cm. It appears yellow-olive-brown in colour with spots down its sides, but during the breeding season males become much brighter, their underbelly goes orangey with dark spots and they grow a crest down their back to their tail. Like most amphibians they spend most of their adult life on land, returning to the same water each year to breed. They can be found in woods, fertile fields, gardens and hibernate over winter. They feed at night, swallowing their prey whole. Amongst other things they eat slugs, worms, insects and even other newts! During the day they seek refuge under wood and rocks.
This newt is mainly found in upland or heathland habitats and is therefore more commonly found in Scotland than England. This is the smallest British newt measuring up to 7.5cm. They are very similar looking to the smooth newt. Males can be identified during the breeding season as they have black webs on their hind feet, they have a fine filament at the end of their tail and their underbelly has no spots. It is extremely difficult to distinguish the females of the palmate and smooth newts. They also feed on various invertebrates.
The palmate newt is a priority species within the Glasgow Local Biodiversity Action Plan.