Pelobates varaldii is a wide-headed Pelobates with an average male snout-vent length of 43.9 - 60.6 mm and body mass of a 10 - 24 g while average female snout-vent length 45.0 - 64.1 mm and body mass of 11 - 27 g (Guarino et al. 2011). The head is slightly concave between the eyes and the nostril is midway between the snout and anterior border of the eye. The eyes have vertical pupils and the tympanum is inconspicuous. This species has three inconspicuous palmar tubercles, and a lack of articular tubercles. The dorsum lacks both dorsolateral folds and paratoid glands. The skin is smooth with small reddish warts on the dorsum and eyelids (Salvador 1996).
The dorsum is grayish brown with irregular dark spots. The venter is whitish. Pelobates varaldii has blackish metatarsal tubercles with whitish bases. The irises are a yellowish copper or black-spotted greenish (Salvador 1996).
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Morocco
Pelobates varaldii has a fragmented distribution in the coastal plains of northwestern Morocco (Guarino et al. 2011). It ranges from as far north as Larache to as far south as the northeastern salt marshes of Oualida (Salvador 2004). This toad is confined to sandy soil habitats (Salvador 1996), preferring uncultivated soils sometimes in the vicinity of cork woodlands. Pelobates varaldii has not been found in habitats altered by humans or above 350 m above sea level (Salvador 2004).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Pelobates varaldii is fossorial and seasonally nocturnal, spending the day buried in the soil and becoming active at night only in the autumn and winter to feed on assorted selection of invertebrates. Breeding and amplexus is carried out in temporary ponds. Egg-laying lasts 5 - 10 minutes, resulting in a 1 - 1.5 m long string of dark grey eggs with a diameter of 1.15 - 2 mm. Hatching takes place within a week after laying, resulting in tadpoles that reach 130 mm in length that feed on detritus and plankton. Metamorphosis occurs in May and June, giving rise to individuals with a snout-vent length of 21 - 34 mm and a stubby tail (Salvador 1996).
Trends and Threats
Pelobates varaldii is listed as 'Endangered' with a declining population by the IUCN Red List. Pelobates varaldii populations may be declining as a result of the propagation of pasture for livestock and the contamination of stagnant water with livestock waste, leading to degradation and loss of habitat. The sandy substrate soil that they inhabit may also be degraded or lost by arable agriculture. The few remaining populations inhabiting permanent bodies of water face elimination through predation by Gambusia holbrooki and other fish (Salvador 2004).
Pelobates varaldii has also been listed in the Evolutionary Distinctive and Globally Endangered (EDGE) program of the Zoological Society of London on place 36 of their global amphibian top 100 based on the species Evolutionary Distinctiveness and Global Endangerment scores (Guarino et al. 2011).
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
Drainage of habitat
Local pesticides, fertilizers, and pollutants
Predators (natural or introduced)
Alfredo Salvador, David Donaire-Barroso, Tahar Slimani , El Hassan El Mouden, Philippe Geniez 2004. Pelobates varaldii. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. Downloaded on 09 March 2013.
Guarino, FM; de Pous, P; Crottini, A; Mezzasalma, M; Andreone, F. 2011. Age structure and growth in a population of Pelobates varaldii (Anura, Pelobatidae) from northwestern Morocco. Amphibia-Reptilia 32(4): 550-556
Salvador, A. (1996). ''Amphibians of Northwest Africa.'' Smithsonian Herpetological Information Service, (109), 1-43.
Originally submitted by: Shaw McMahon (first posted 2013-07-12)
Edited by: Ann T. Chang (2013-07-22)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2013 Pelobates varaldii: Moroccan Spadefoot <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/5272> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Jan 22, 2022.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2022. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 22 Jan 2022.
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