Alytes maurus Pasteur & Bons, 1962
Moroccan Midwife Toad
|Species Description: Pasteur, G., and J. Bons. 1962. Note préliminaire sur Alytes maurus: gemellarité ou polytopisme? Remarques biogéographiques, génétiques et taxinomiques. Bulletin de la Société Zoologique de France 87: 71–79.|
Taxonomic Notes: Elevated to full species by: Donaire-Barroso, D., and S. Bogaerts. (2003). Datos sobre taxonomía, ecología y biología de Alytes maurus (Pasteur & Bons, 1962) (Anura, Discoglossidae). Butlletí de la Societat Catalana d'Herpetologia. Barcelona 16, 25–40.
© 2015 Alberto Sanchez-Vialas (1 of 11)
The adult form of A. maurus is not significantly different in general morphology from the European species Alytes obstetricans, but it has been noted that A. maurus is smaller, more slender, and the digits are longer and thinner (Salvador 1996). The tadpoles have some distinctive features (Pasteur and Bons 1962). The males call at dusk and during the night, and the call is like a short whistle. Call parameters are within the range of variation of Alytes obstetricans, but are shorter in duration than those of Alytes cisternasii and Alytes dickhilleni (Marquez et al. 2011).
In life, they are a brownish, greenish or gray dorsal colouration with well-defined black, green or brown spots. Orange spots on the sides, parotoids and limbs might be present. They have white ventral skin, sometimes with spots of gray on the throat and chest (Nöllert and Nöllert 1992).
There is hardly any noticeable sexual dimorphism, but the males are slightly smaller (Nöllert and Nöllert 1992).
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Algeria, Morocco
Alytes maurus is found in North Morocco in the Rif Mountains and in the Middle Atlas Mountains, where it seems to be limited to the Tazekka and Bou Iblane Massifs. The altitudinal distribution ranges from 200 up to 2142 m a.s.l., although most occur at intermediate altitudes (de Pous et al. 2013). There is also a single population in Algeria in the Tlemcen mountains (Mateo et al. 2013).
They are usually found in humid areas with montane karst, a type of landscape created by soluble rocks such as limestone. The adults live around permanent bodies of water such as streams and pools, and they can be found in cracks and fissures of the rock and under stones on clay-rich soil (de Pous et al. 2013).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
The breeding season varies throughout the range, and calls have been heard from as early as February to as late as June, tending to have an earlier breeding season in the northern section of their range and a later breeding season in the southern section of their range (Donaire-Barroso and Bogaerts 2003).
Alytes species have a courtship that involves males emitting advertisement calls to attract females and vocalizing females approaching the calling male. Their call parameters are similar to Alytes obstetricans. After males and females are in amplexus, an elaborate mating behavior occurs on land where males twine the strings of fertilized eggs around their ankles and carry them for about 3 weeks. When the tadpoles are developed to having internal gills the male proceeds into water where they leave their eggs, which hatch into tadpoles. Egg clutch size has been estimated as 35 eggs at higher elevations (1283 m a.s.l) and 60 - 70 eggs at lower elevations (500 m a.s.l) (Donaire-Barroso and Bogaerts 2003; Marquez et al. 2011).
Trends and Threats
This species is threatened by habitat destruction, disease, introduced predators, and climate change. It has been reported that every body of water that has A. maurus tadpoles has some level of pollution and disturbance. The use of the water for agriculture has caused habitat fragmentation, and annual fires have been burning larger areas of their habitat. In urban areas, their bodies of water are populated with garbage and other forms of water pollution. Overgrazing has also added an additional pressure (IUCN 2021).
The chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, was first detected in a 2005 - 2009 survey, but has since been recorded in numerous areas of its distribution (Mouden et al. 2011; IUCN 2021). This disease has been linked to the low population density of A. maurus (IUCN 2021).
Alytes maurus is also at risk from the introduction of predatory fish, such as Gambusia holbrooki. Lastly, it has also been predicted that climate change will cause a severe reduction in habitat suitability by the year 2050 (IUCN 2021).
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
Originally classified as a subspecies of Alytes obstetricans, it was elevated to a species level through a 2003 mtDNA analysis (Donaire-Barroso and Bogaerts 2003). However, a 2013 ecological niche modeling study using mtDNA showed that there was low genetic variability across its range (de Pous et al. 2013). Alytes maurus was shown to be sister to a clade consisting of Alytes dickhellini and Alytes muletensis in a 2023 Bayesian analysis using RAD-sequences (Ambu et al. 2023).
Ambu, J., Martínez-Solano, Í., Suchan, T., Hernandez, A., Wielstra, B., Crochet, P., and Dufresnes, C. (2023). Genomic phylogeography illuminates deep cyto-nuclear discordances in midwife toads (Alytes). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 183, 107783. [link]
IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. (2021). Alytes maurus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021: e.T55267A178748090. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2021-3.RLTS.T55267A178748090.en. Accessed on 11 September 2023.
de Pous, P., Metallinou, M., Donaire-Barroso, D., Carranza, S., and Sanuy, D. (2013). Integrating mtDNA analyses and ecological niche modelling to infer the evolutionary history of Alytes maurus (Amphibia; Alytidae) from Morocco. The Herpetological Journal, 23(3), 153-160. [link]
Donaire-Barroso, D., and S. Bogaerts. (2003). Datos sobre taxonomía, ecología y biología de Alytes maurus (Pasteur & Bons, 1962) (Anura, Discoglossidae). Butlletí de la Societat Catalana d'Herpetologia. Barcelona 16, 25–40. [link]
Mateo, J., Geniez,P., and Pether, J. (2013). Diversity and conservation of Algerian amphibian assemblages. Basic and applied Herpetology 27, 51-83. [link]
Maia-Carvalho, B., Gonçalves, H., Ferrand, N., and Martínez-Solano, I. (2014). Multilocus assessment of phylogenetic relationships in Alytes (Anura, Alytidae). Molecular phylogenetics and evolution 79, 270-278. [link]
Márquez, R., Francisco Beltrán, J., Slimani, T., Radi, M., Llusia, D., and El Mouden, H. (2011). Description of the advertisement call of the Moroccan midwife toad (Alytes maurus Pasteur & Bons, 1962). Alytes 27(4), 142-150. [link]
Nöllert, A. and Nöllert, C. (1992). Die Amphibien Europas. Franckh-Kosmos Verlags-GmbH and Company, Stuttgart.
Pasteur, G., and J. Bons. (1962). Note préliminaire sur Alytes maurus: gemellarité ou polytopisme? Remarques biogéographiques, génétiques et taxinomiques. Bulletin de la Société Zoologique de France 87, 71–79.
Salvador, A. (1996). Amphibians of northwest Africa. Smithson. herp. Inf. Serv. 109, 1-43.
We previously attributed the species authority to: Martínez-Solano, Í., H. A. Gonçalves, J. W. Arntzen, and M. García-París. (2004). Phylogenetic relationships and biogeography of midwife toads (Discoglossidae: Alytes). Journal of Biogeography 31, 603– 618. [link]
Originally submitted by: Nessa Kmetec (2023-09-28)
Distribution by: Arlo Hinckley and Alberto Sánchez (updated 2023-09-28)
Life history by: Nessa Kmetec (updated 2023-09-28)
Trends and threats by: Nessa Kmetec (updated 2023-09-28)
Comments by: Nessa Kmetec (updated 2023-09-28)
Edited by: Nessa Kmetec, Maxine Weber (2023-09-28)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2023 Alytes maurus: Moroccan Midwife Toad <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/6244> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Dec 6, 2023.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2023. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 6 Dec 2023.
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