Comprehensive Description

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Bufo spinosus is a large and robust toad with a snout-vent length of 58.6 - 112 mm in males and 65 - 180 mm in females. Its head is relatively broad, and the region between the eyes is either flat or slightly concave. The snout is short and rounded. The tympanum is subtly visible and rounded, and its diameter does not exceed half the eye. The parotoid glands are large, elongated, and divergent at the posterior end. The eyes are prominent with a horizontally oval pupil. The skin is warty on the back and granular on the underside. Its warts usually end in a keratinized tip, resulting in a spiny appearance, though not all individuals express this. These keratinized warts are especially prominent between the corner of the mouth and the parotoid. The fingers, of which the third is the longest, are short. No information is available on the relative finger lengths. There are two palmar tubercles on the hands. The hind limbs are webbed, and have a pair of metatarsal tubercles, with the internal metatarsal tubercle being larger than the external metatarsal tubercle. No information is available on the relative toe lengths. There is a pair of subarticular tubercles on the hands and the feet that may be fused in older adults (Ortiz-Santaliestra 2014).

The larvae are described from Tunisian specimens. They can reach a total length of up to 30 mm, and their eyes are situated dorsally on the head. They have a sinistral spiracle and a medial anus. The end of the tail is rounded (Hassine and Escoriza 2014).

It can be differentiated from other sympatric species of toad by its intensely red-colored iris. In comparison to allopatric populations of B. bufo, a morphologically similar species, B. spinosus has more widely divergent parotoids and larger inner metatarsal tubercles. In males, the inner metatarsal tubercle is less rounded in B. spinosus than in B. bufo (Arntzen and McAtear et al. 2013, Ortiz-Santaliestra 2014).

In life, this species usually shows a uniform brown coloration, but may also have shades of yellow, red, green, gray, and/or black. The iris is noticeably red. There may or may not be a dark or light mottled design in the back. Its ventral coloration can be yellowish or pale brown, but may differ in juveniles. The larvae are uniformly black or dark brown, and have black speckling on the tail fin. (Hassine and Escoriza 2014, Ortiz-Santaliestra 2014).

In addition to the aforementioned variation in coloration, B. spinosus varies in body size, parotoid gland size, and in presence of warts on the skin. Body size and presence of warts have evolved independently in several lineages of the B. bufo species complex, possibly as ecological adaptations. Sexual dimorphism is significant in mature individuals. Females are bigger than males and have less robust arms relative to their body size. Males have nuptial pads on their first three fingers, whereas females have no nuptial pads at all (Luescher et al. 2001, Ortiz-Santaliestra 2014).

The species authority is: Daudin, F. M. (1803). An. XI. Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière des Reptiles; Ouvrage Faisant suit à l'Histoire Naturelle Générale et Particulière, Composée par Leclerc de Buffon; et Rédigée par C.S. Sonnini, Membre de Plusieurs Sociétés Savantes, Paris.

Bufo spinosus was formerly considered a subspecies of B. bufo, but is now recognized as a distinct species within the B. bufo species complex, which consists of B. bufo, B. eichwaldi, B. spinosus, and B. verrucosissimus. Bufo spinosus is sister to the clade B. bufo and B. verrucosissimus, while B. eichwaldi is sister to all other Bufo species within the B. bufo species complex (Arntzen and McAtear et al. 2013, Arntzen and Recuero et al. 2013, Recuero et al. 2012).

The species epithet spinosus is derived from Latin, meaning "thorny", which is in reference to the spiny appearance of its skin (Ortiz-Santaliestra 2014).


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