Comprehensive DescriptionRead full entry
Tympanic membrane absent. Skin smooth. Sternum ossified. Pupil of the eye is vertical. Webs between the toes well-developed. Inner metatarsal tubercle of hind foot quite large and spade-shaped. No male resonators. Body robust, hind legs short, head large. Inner metatarsal tubercle very large, yellow-brownish in color. Dorsal coloration yellow-grayish, brown-grayish or brown with large dark-brown or dark-olive spots and small reddish points. Belly white-grayish, without pattern or with rare gray points. The frontal surface between the eyes is more or less conspicuous. In contrast to the female, the male possesses a prominent oval gland on the upper surface of the upper arm, and has a smaller body. During the reproductive period the male possesses small tubercles on the palms and forearms.
The Italian subspecies, Pelobates fuscus insubricus, is morphologically quite similar. The only apparent differences are in general a brighter colouration, sometimes with a considerable number of small red or reddish points (especially in females). The head appears slightly larger and prominent.
Pelobates fuscus insubricus suffers for a series of problems and constraints. In the Po Plain the human settlements and heavy urban centers (such as Turin and Milan), added to intensive agriculture, make the life of plain organisms very difficult. This is the reason of local extinction and distribution shrinkage of many plaitional species and populations, among which Rana latastei, Emys orbicularis, Zootoca vivipara (plain populations), Vipera berus (plain populations), Rana temporaria (plain populations). Pelobates fuscus insubricus is likely the most heavily affected amphibian. In fact it suffers from (1) habitat distruction (original wetlands wre dried up and ponds are often eliminated), (2) habitat isolation (the residual ponds are surrounded by hostile agricultural habitats), (3) fish introduction (many ponds are colonized by bluegills, catfishes, all heavy predators of early larval stages), (4) introduction of bullfrogs and exotic crayfish. The well known and also relatively abundant populations reproducing in the ricefields of Novara surroundings suffered in the last years a constant lowering due to the evident change of agricultural practice (many ricefields were replaced by Soya fields, the others were made more “regular” and less deep). In some cases the residual breeding sites are surrounded by houses and are also filled with materials for building. To contrast this tendency and possible population reduction the Italian subspecies has been declared “asterisked taxon” in the Habitat Directive. Furthermore it has been object of a conservation campaign of WWF Italia. This campaign had – among its concrete programs – the attempts of captive breeding for reintroduction. Anyhow, despite the good results in documenting the breeding behavior, little results were until now obtained in the sense of population reintroduction and reinforcement.