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This family includes two living genera, Discoglossus and Alytes. Both are small frogs (Snout vent-length about 40-70 mm). The family is distributed in Europe and northwest Africa (Arnold et al., 1978).
Discoglossus (Painted Frogs) resemble true frogs of the genus Rana; they are somewhat smooth and shiny. The shape of the pupil is like an inverted teardrop. Painted frogs are usually found in and around water.
Midwife toads (Alytes) are stockier, more toadlike, and more terrestrial, being found in woodlands and rocky areas. The male of Alytes obstetricans carries the strings of eggs, adherent to his back and thighs, until they hatch into water. The tadpoles are ordinary pond-type tadpoles with median spiracle, beaks, and two upper and three lower rows of denticles.
Alytes muletensis was first described as a new genus, Baleaphryne, from Pleistocene fossil material. It was only later discovered that the species was still extant on the island of Mallorca, which is part of Spain (Hemmer and Alcover, 1984). The genus Baleaphryne was later synonymized into Alytes.
With the removal of Bombina and Barbourula from Discoglossidae, the fossil range of the family is unclear. See below under "Phylogenetic Relationships."