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European fire-bellied toad (Bombina bombina)

European fire- bellied toad ( Bombina bombina )

Row : Land vertebrates (Tetrapoda)
without rank: Amphibians (Lissamphibia)
Order : Frog (anura)
Superfamily : Disc tongue i. w. S. (Discoglossoidea)
Family : Toads and barbour frogs (Bombinatoridae)
Genre : Toads
Scientific name
Oken , 1816

The toads ( Bombina ), also known under the outdated name of fire toads , are a genus of frogs that, together with the barbour frogs ( Barbourula ), form the family of Bombinatoridae . In tribal history , they are placed among the primeval "lower" frogs ( Archaeobatrachia ). Depending on the literature, five to eight species of the genus are distinguished, the distribution areas of which range from Europe to East Asia.


Morphology of the adult animals

The undersides of two young toads in comparison, above a fire-bellied toad , below a yellow-bellied toad
Head of the yellow-bellied toad with clearly recognizable triangular pupil

Contrary to popular belief, toads are not “particularly fat toads”, but on the contrary very small, warty, toad-like amphibians with flattened bodies, most of which are only four to five centimeters long. On their underside, they wear brightly colored (warning) colors as drawing patterns that are intended to draw the attention of potential predators to their skin toxins . On the upper side, they are mostly gray to brown in color, which means they are well camouflaged on muddy ground - the mostly conspicuous bright green and black marbled upper side of the Chinese fire-bellied toad ( Bombina orientalis ) also has a camouflaging effect in their natural habitats. The skin is covered with a large number of glandular warts, which in the yellow-bellied toads also have horny tips.

The noticeably long transverse processes of the lumbar spine are also among the special features that are unique to the toads ( autapomorphy ) . In addition, they share the name-giving round tongue with the disc lobsters, which grows together with the floor of the mouth except for a narrow edge and therefore cannot be extended. As further features, there are eight presacral (before the cross preferred) with them and the Scheibenzünglern fluidized with overlapping upper vertebral arch , of which the second through fourth each have a free pair of ribs carries. Such ribs are no longer present in most of the more than 5,000 frog species. The shoulder girdle is flexible, the sternum is only cartilaginous .

The pupils of the eyes, which are quite close together, are triangular to heart-shaped. An eardrum is not externally visible in the animals. In the fire-bellied toad ( Bombina bombina ) the males have internal and throat-like vocal sacs , which the other species lack. In the upper jaw, both the maxillary and the premaxillary have palatal teeth ; the lower jaw is edentulous.

Toads have a basal tension skin between the fingers; These webs are fully developed on the toes. During the mating season, males also have rutting calluses on the fingers and forearms, which are formed as dark to black thickenings. These calluses occur in the giant toad ( Bombina maxima ) also on the chest and in the yellow-bellied toad ( Bombina variegata ) also on the middle toes.

Larval morphology

The larvae of the toad, i.e. the tadpoles , reach a maximum length that corresponds roughly to that of the adult animals. As a result, shortly before metamorphosis, including the oar tail, they are five centimeters long. As with the larvae of the actual discoglossus ( Discoglossus ) and the midwife toads ( Alytes ), the breathing hole ( spiraculum ) is not located on the left side of the trunk, but on the underside on the body center line, whereby it is significantly closer to the end of the trunk compared to the other two groups can be located. The high upper fin edge extends relatively far forward and always encompasses at least the last third of the trunk. The tail is smaller than 1.5 times the length of the body and the fin edge has a fine line pattern. In tadpoles of the fire-bellied toad ( Bombina bombina ), two light vertical stripes parallel to the spine can be seen on the upper side. They rarely swim around in the open water, but prefer to stay between aquatic plants.

One of the distinctive features when determining the larvae of the frog is the development of the mouth area . The upper and lower lips are characterized by rows of lip teeth typical of the species and by wart-like protuberances (papillae). The Bombinatoridae, the common disc blobs and the obstetrician toads have double rows of lip teeth on both lips. The upper lip has two and the lower lip three double rows. In their case, the papillae of the mouth surround the entire mouth area, while in the disc bite the middle area of ​​the upper lip does not show these lobed skin lines.

distribution and habitat

Fire-bellied toad in its natural habitat

The species of toad have a Palearctic distribution area; this means that they can be found both in Europe and in predominantly temperate Asia. The fire-bellied toad and the yellow-bellied toad occur - in the latter case in several subspecies - in large parts of Europe and Western Asia; the fire-bellied toad in particular has a wide distribution area. All other species live in East Asia. With the exception of the Chinese fire-bellied toad, which is found in eastern Russia and can also be found in parts of Korea and on individual islands of Japan , it is only found very locally in various regions of China .

All types of toad prefer stagnant water as their habitat , which, unlike many other frogs, they are reluctant to leave over long distances or for long periods. The fire-bellied toad lives mainly in the continental lowlands on still waters such as small oxbow lakes of rivers or quiet field ponds and especially on floodpumps in floodplains. The yellow-bellied toad, on the other hand, is only found in higher-lying areas, especially in low mountain ranges, where it can be found mainly in small and tiny bodies of water such as ponds, clay puddles or water-filled fairways, often near small mountain streams. The Asian species also live in small bodies of water and can occur at heights of over 3000 meters.

Way of life

General behavior

Toads are largely nocturnal outside the mating season and occur in large numbers in intact populations. They live semi- aquatic and are accordingly morphologically well adapted to aquatic life. Their resting behavior within bodies of water is that they float on the surface of the water with their legs apart, especially in shallower and thus warmer areas of water. But they also stay on the ground along the shoreline. During the winter months, the animals become frozen in the winter , when they bury themselves in the ground or retreat into existing hollows.

Reproduction and development

Yellow-bellied toads in the amplexus
Toad spawns typically consist of very loose clumps with a few eggs - here fresh spawn of the yellow-bellied toad

The mating calls of the males sound very peculiarly "melancholy" (especially with the fire-bellied toad) or "bell-like" (with the yellow-bellied toad). When mating, they do not clasp the area of ​​the armpits on the females, but the lumbar region (compare: amplexus ). Toads lay their spawn in small clumps on aquatic plants or on the water floor; the Chinese fire-bellied toad sticks the eggs to the underside of hollow stones on the bottom of the water. The animals can spawn in several batches throughout the summer. There are always significantly fewer than 100 eggs per pairing.


Toads orient themselves primarily optically when catching prey and react with an unselective snap reflex of their jaws towards objects up to about 3.5 centimeters in size moving in front of them. The food spectrum of the adult toad consists mainly of insects and their larvae. The specific composition depends on the local availability of the food animals. In investigations in the Ukraine, for example, the stomach content of red-bellied toads was found to have an average of 56% mosquito larvae , 18% different beetles , 3% spiders and the remainder from various other invertebrates , the proportion of which was mostly below 1%. In the yellow-bellied toad, the largest food group consisted of beetles (31%), followed by ants (15%), various two-winged animals (14%, including the mosquito) and several other animal groups with proportions of up to 9%.

The larvae, on the other hand, feed primarily on the algae lawn on stones and other structures under water. In addition, they also eat the spawn of other frogs and occasionally that of their own species as well as smaller, weakened or dead tadpoles.

Natural enemies

Toads are consumed by various animal species despite their skin secretions. These include above all snakes, such as the grass snake ( Natrix natrix ) or the dice snake ( Natrix tesselata ) in Europe . Among the birds, white storks ( Ciconia ciconia ), black storks ( Ciconia nigra ) and a number of smaller bird species ( crows , magpies, etc.) prey on the adults. In Ukraine, it was also observed that red-bellied toads were hunted by the night heron ( Nycticorax nycticorax ) and made up between 5 and 25 percent of the total diet. Furthermore prey hedgehogs and shrews this Anura. The larvae and eggs are eaten by crested newts , water frogs and turtles such as the European pond turtle ( Emys orbicularis ).

Parasitic worms play a major role among the parasites . The Rotbauchunke, for example, of at least 15 kinds of flukes , eight nematode species and two scratch worms infest (Acanthocephala); it is also an intermediate host for at least two types of tapeworm . In the yellow-bellied toad, only two parasites have so far been detected - the tapeworm Nematotaenia dispar and the scraper Acathocephalus ranae - while there are no studies or evidence of parasite infestation in the Asian species.

Even cannibalism has been reported in prophecies, especially the yellow-bellied toad. Some of the larvae eat the eggs and smaller larvae of the same species, while adults eat the larvae.


In the event of disturbances, floating toads submerge on the water surface and try to escape from the disturbance area underwater. On land, the animals expire at threat in a typical shock position, as unkenreflex is known or Kahn position and was also observed in a few other amphibians. In doing so, they twist their limbs upwards so that the undersides with the red, orange or yellow warning colors are visible. The backs of the hands are placed over the eyes and the tops of the feet are turned onto the animal's back while it forms a hollow back.

In addition, toads produce a secretion in their skin glands that contains irritants and toxins and is known as "toad saliva". This can be produced in such quantities that it covers the body surface as white foam. The skin secretion, which smells of leek, contains various substances which in humans primarily irritate the mucous membranes of the eyes and nose. Some of the ingredients are also toxic, others have an antimicrobial effect and accordingly keep the body free of bacteria or fungal spores. The main constituents are bombinin (named after the genus), the bombinin-H-peptide and a number of very similar peptides , which are referred to as "Bombinin-like peptides " (BLP) and have a composition typical of the species. In the fire-bellied toad, in addition to bombinin, several free amino acids and a large amount of serotonin were found. The secretion of the yellow-bellied toad also contained a hemolytically active polypeptide. The maximin, which is also similar in structure to bombinin, was isolated from the giant toad. In the laboratory it was shown that Maximin also acts as a cell poison against tumors as well as a form as a potential active ingredient against the HIV virus of AIDS .

Evolution and systematics

Tribal history

The earliest toad fossil finds for Central Europe date from the Pliocene and are accordingly between two and five million years old. Most of the skeletons were found in fossil animal structures in Pisede in Mecklenburg .

The oldest finds of the disc beak in the broader sense (Discoglossoidea), which also include the toads, are dated in Europe to the Upper Jurassic (195 to 135 million years old) and in North America to the Upper Cretaceous (135 to 65 million years old). On the basis of these finds as well as the current area of ​​distribution in Europe and East Asia, the evolutionary emergence of the disc beak and Bombinatoridae (toad and barbour frogs) on the northern continent of Laurasia can be located.

External system

Corsican disc beater (
Discoglossus montalenti )

While the toads a few years ago to the Scheibenzünglern were counted (Discoglossidae), the species is majority today, together with the Barbour frogs ( Barbourula ) the separate family Bombinatoridae assigned. Accordingly, the barbourula provide the sister group represents his left and the Disc-with the authentics Scheibenzünglern ( Discoglossus ) and the obstetrician toads ( Alytes ) the sister group of consisting of the two genera Bombinatoridae. This hypothesis, which regards both families as true monophyletic taxa and accordingly presupposes, in addition to the sister group ratio of the two genera within the Bombinatoridae, one of the genera Alytes and Discoglossus , has now also been genetically confirmed by a comparison of the mitochondrial genome . The common disc and the Bombinatoridae together form a taxon, which is referred to as disc common in the broader sense (Discoglossoidea).

The disc flippers and the Bombinatoridae are classified in the Archaeobatrachia , ie the "primitive frogs". In addition to them, the New Zealand primeval frogs (Leiopelmatidae) and the tail frogs (Ascaphidae) are also included in this subordination . The Archaeobatrachia represent the most primitive group of recent frogs and are compared in their entirety to the other anuras as sister taxons:

 Frog (anura) 

 Barbour frogs ( Barbourula )


 Toads ( bombina )


 Disc- (Discoglossidae)


 New Zealand primeval frogs (Leiopelmatidae)


 Tail frogs (Ascaphidae)


 all other frogs ( Mesobatrachia and Neobatrachia )

Internal system

Chinese red-bellied toads in the amplexus (kept in the paludarium )

The first description of the genus Bombina was made under this name in 1816 by Lorenz Oken , who placed the yellow-bellied toad, described by Carl von Linné as Rana variegata as early as 1758, as well as the red-bellied toad, also described by Linné in 1761, which he called Rana bombina , in a separate genus Bombina . As early as 1768, the species were assigned to the toads in the genus Bufo by Josephus Nicolaus Laurenti . A new description was made in 1820 by Blasius Merrem under the name Bombinator (based on this, John Edward Gray called the family Bombinatoridae ), which was able to keep as a valid generic name until 1907. In that year Leonhard Hess Stejneger resorted to the name of Oken, which was valid according to the priority rule of the zoological nomenclature, but Bombinator remained the most common synonym .

The internal systematics of the toads is still partly controversial, so that within the literature there are different views on the status of the individual species. According to molecular biological studies, six species are divided into two sub-genera, whereby the formerly recognized East Asian species of the Guangxi fire -bellied toad ( Bombina fortinuptialis ) and the Hubei fire -bellied toad ( Bombina microdeladigitora ) are regarded as conspecific with the giant toad ( Bombina maxima ).

Hybridization is possible between some species such as the red-bellied and yellow-bellied toad , which occurs in the regions in which both species can be found sympatric and syntopic - this overlap area, however, represents a very narrow strip (example of a corresponding locality: Lake Neusiedl ) . The hybrids are relatively variable in their coloration and represent an intermediate state of the two parent species. They are fully reproductive and can accordingly also reproduce with one another, but have a significantly increased mortality rate , especially in the central hybridization region . The influence of the two species on one another can be genetically determined up to a ten-fold distance from the actual hybridization area, but has less and less phenotypical effects as the distance from the center increases .


 Toads ( bombina )  


Yellow-bellied toad ( Bombina variegata )


Apennine yellow-bellied toad ( Bombina pachypus )


European fire- bellied toad ( Bombina bombina )


Chinese fire-bellied toad ( Bombina orientalis )


Lichuan fire-bellied toad ( Bombina lichuanensis )


Giant toad ( bombina maxima )

Template: Klade / Maintenance / Style


Origin of the German term Unke

The etymology of the name toad is difficult - the word has different roots and several times in history its meaning has changed. One of the roots is definitely the North Germanic unkvi , which is probably related to the Latin anguis (= the snake). From unkvi then developed in Old High German , Middle High German and also in the Middle Low German unc (the snake =). Another source is the North Germanic UKON (= the toad) from the in ahd. UCHA , MHG. EARCH also ouche and Ouke , NHG. Auke and Euke developed. A third explanation is an onomatopoeic exclamations word from unk derived from the call of the males. This also explains the German verb derived sunk (as much as from vague warnings eject ), then what the etymological figure "prophecies sunk" allows.

It is interesting to combine two meanings in a word stem. In early mythology, the toad was often associated with death and reincarnation, while the snake was a symbol of infinity, but also a symbol of the phallus , i.e. the ascending and descending hero . In Christian mythology the snake was then the symbol of the fall . The term toad was used more rarely for the basilisk or lizard .

The use of the meaning snake can be found up to the 17th century , among others in Jakob Ayrer (1598), in Johann Georg Agricola's Chirurgia (1643), in Christian Franz Paullini's Philosophischer Feierabend (1700), in Jacob Grimm's German Mythology (1825 ; here specifically for the grass snake or water house otter ) and in Alfred Brehms Tierleben (1864–1869) for the slow worm . In the meaning toad, the term is found mainly later, among others in Notker II. , Daniel Sanders and Bonifaz Wimmer . The use in the meaning property basilisk can be found among others with Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach and with Scherz - Oberlin . As a genus, the toads were first described by Lorenz Oken in 1816 ; From this point on, the term slowly asserts itself for the genre that is meant today.

One theory for the change of concept is the rarity of snakes in the 17th century with the beginning of the massive control and expulsion of snakes from the cultural regions. Another attempt to explain it says that toads shout quite loudly, but are very difficult to spot, but grass snakes were often found near the water, to which the calls were then incorrectly attributed.

Etymology of Scientific Names

The valid scientific name Bombina and the synonym Bombinator are derived from the Latin name bombus , which stands for "deep tone". It describes the pitch of the call to doom (what is meant here in particular is the call of the fire-bellied toad).

People and toads

Hazard and protection

The two species native to Central Europe, the fire-bellied toad and the yellow-bellied toad, are high on the red list . The Rotbauchunke applies, for example in Germany as threatened with extinction than during the yellow-bellied endangered strongly marked. The decline in populations can, however, also be observed internationally - especially on the north-western edge of the area of ​​the species. In southern Sweden, for example, all natural habitats of the fire-bellied toad have now been lost and attempts have been made to artificially reintroduce them since 1960. In Denmark, of the originally around 100 known populations of the species, more than half had disappeared by 1950; in 1996 there were only seven deposits left. A similar development can also be reported from the east of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony . The largest German populations of the fire-bellied toad are today along the Elbe as well as in Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania - but here too it is in some cases strongly declining. The same can be said about the yellow-bellied toad, whose populations are in decline or even extinct in large parts of their distribution area.

No data are available on the endangerment or population numbers of the Asian species. With the exception of the giant toad and the Chinese fire-bellied toad, all species have so far only been described as single individuals or as small populations that are very small-scale. No more precise statements can be made about the status of the giant toad. The Chinese fire-bellied toad is a widespread and common amphibian species, the status of which in large parts of the distribution area is regarded as little researched, but overall it is not yet considered endangered.

Smoke waters on the middle Elbe , habitat of the fire-bellied toad

As with most amphibians, the endangerment of the European toad species goes hand in hand with the decline of water bodies and thus their habitats. A large number of standing water bodies are destroyed in the course of agricultural use and other areas being drained, as well as when straightening and expanding streams and rivers (fewer floodplain areas ) and when the groundwater is lowered . This also applies to the small and very small bodies of water in which toads are native. In addition, there is increasing pollution of water from pesticides and fertilizers. With the disappearance of individual populations, the remaining populations become isolated and their genetic pool is thereby separated from that of others. The decline is further exacerbated by this ever increasing isolation .

The habitats preferred by yellow-bellied toads have to be kept open at all times through use or maintenance, otherwise they will quickly become overgrown. In contrast, new “pioneer biotopes” can hardly arise naturally in the Central European cultural landscape. Suitable conditions are mostly only found in excavation pits and on loamy forest paths.

The main protective measures for toads are habitat preservation and habitat enhancement measures. Areas in which the animals are found should be placed under protection and agriculture should be extensive . This includes, above all, the creation and rehabilitation of small bodies of water ( biotope network ), the preservation of green spaces and the dismantling of drainage systems .

In addition to these anthropogenic influences, however, climatic reasons for the decline are also suspected: The toads reached their peak of distribution in the time of the climatic optimum after the last ice age (compare: Atlantic ), so that the climate development since then could be a further factor. This cannot be countered by means of species protection.

Pet ownership

Attention: For the keeping of the animals, advice from experts and further training through suitable literature is absolutely necessary before purchasing. This text does not replace any posture instructions. Any removal of amphibians and their stages of development from the wild is prohibited in Germany, for example, under the Federal Nature Conservation Act and the Federal Species Protection Ordinance. In addition to the European species, the latter also expressly includes Bombina orientalis . The highly endangered European toads are also strictly protected throughout the EU in accordance with the Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive .

The keeping of the Chinese fire-bellied toad plays a particularly important role in terraristics , while the fire-bellied toad, yellow-bellied toad and giant toad are kept relatively rarely. Both wild-caught and breeding animals are offered, whereby at least for the European species, due to the protection status, proof is required that they are not wild-caught.

The animals need an aquaterrarium equipped according to their needs . It should be a structure-rich facility, in the water part of which there must also be plants and some hollow stones. Both insects and small chunks of meat are accepted as food. However, the stocking should not be too large, as otherwise biting and injuries can occur. The animals are overwintered in a container lined with damp moss and leaves in a cool but frost-free place.

The Chinese fire-bellied toad is easy to breed in captivity. Separate tanks should be created for the larvae, as cannibalism can occur in the animals. In offspring, the red underside of the Chinese fire-bellied toad and the fire-bellied toad can be significantly paler than that of the wild type; this can be permanently remedied by adding canthaxanthin preparations to food.

Toons in art, literature and mythology

Due to the change in meaning of the term toad in the course of time, it is also used in various meanings in literature. Sometimes, especially in the case of shorter literary mentions, it is impossible to distinguish whether a snake or a frog is meant. Before the 19th century in particular , but still today, toads are often equated with toads - although the term toad is not clearly delimited in terms of animal system. A toad can also mean a toad and vice versa. The toad as a term for mythical creatures, on the other hand, is rarely used in literature. In historical sources, the term toad in the current sense of the word can only be assumed to have a meaning for the genus Bombina if it is an onomatopoeic reference to the prophecy of doom.

In the painting the motif of the toad is hardly to be found; However, it is found sporadically on altars , for example in Lower Austria on the altar of the Kaiser Jubilee Church in the market town of Hirtenberg . The toad is widespread on Celtic sandstone altars in the form of heads with sacrificial hollows, which regularly show a jumping toad and a predator, possibly a wolf , on the back . The identical motif is also found less often on monumental sandstone altars or boundary stones .

There are hardly any mentions in potion recipes from witchcraft , although this would be obvious because of the skin secretions of the toad. However, the toad is often found in such recipes and there is again the possibility that toads were indistinguishable from toads. However, one of the few references to the use of toads in such potions found in Propertius in his elegies . There it says:

"Dreadful poisons, secretly brewed by frogs and toads,
hissing viper bones have beguiled the poor."

- Properz

The toad is important in the Easter ritual Blood of Renewal , which has been handed down through Arator . In the somnium , the sixth step of the ritual, it says:

"Hear the mandate, or holy counsel,
because your salvation lies in it:
A pitch-black toad ravages our country,
which injects its poison into the living and the dead
and threatens all existence."

- Arator

In the later somnium , the words snake , toad and dragon also appear. What is meant here is the evil that is inherent in humans. Towards the end of the ritual, the toad is killed, but the master of ceremonies himself also dies. The picture is supposed to represent the need to kill Satan and his infinite influence on people - but this enemy is the person himself!


The toad is used as an allegory on various subjects. Often she embodies the image of the prophet of doom or herald of bad omen and the song of toad is also found as an announcement of death or as a funeral song. In general, the calls that people perceive as sad are also mentioned in the literature in melancholy contexts, often also in connection with doubts (cf. Das Tokenlied des Zweifels ). From this the German idiom has developed in spite of all prophecies of doom ; the prophecy of doom here means the concerns expressed by doubters or pessimists .

Other motifs use the word toad as a synonym for an old woman or an unsympathetic girl or generally for ugliness , which is derived from the warty appearance of the animal species. A third motif would be drunkenness as if in full as a toad , possibly derived from the sight of the male toads, sometimes extremely bloated when calling.

In addition, the expression rumunken is used regionally for exaggerated grumbling or bad talking.

Toads in fairy tales

Child with a Snake - Caravaggio , (1571-1610)

The toad is rarely found in fairy tales as a frog; however, the term often stands for a snake. The toad is always a bringer of luck or a blessing. The Grimm brothers have two such fairy tales:

The fairy tale of the toad tells the fate of a snake, which is linked to the fate of a child. As long as the child is feeding the snake, it grows, but once the mother's toad kills, the child dies. In the fairy tale The Toad with the Crown , the animal is depicted as a sensitive creature that brings a treasure to light. As a child takes away the treasure, the killing toad itself.

In the New German Book of Fairy Tales by Bechstein there are also fairy tales that explicitly use the term toad as a synonym for a snake. In the fairy tale snake house friend , the toad is a beneficial animal that brings prosperity and becomes close friends with a cat. The mythological meaning becomes clearer in the fairy tale The Snake with the Golden Key . Here, as long as salvation is in sight, the animal is referred to as a serpent and only afterwards, when it is a lost being for another hundred years, as a toad .

Prophecies of doom in poetry

The call to doom as an acoustically perceptible element of the environment is widespread as a motif in poetry , although strictly speaking it is not an animal sound in the literary sense , as it is not reproduced onomatopoeically but is described. The word token itself or the verb token can, however, be interpreted as an interjection of the shouting unk .

A distinction must be made between the reputation of the yellow-bellied toad and that of the red-bellied toad . The former, which is also often associated with the reputation of the closely related midwife toad is confused sounds tender or bell bright and can be found for example in Annette von Droste-Hulshoff :

There is a swamp on the frontispiece of Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy . The swamp is also considered a melancholy place because of the calls from toads.

"I only heard the top of the tree groaning,
And below me, at the edge of the pond,
The toad tinged delicate peals."

- Droste-Hülshoff : The exiles

The fire-bellied toad's call is rather dull and deeper. He is perceived by people as melancholic, threatening and dark and can be found for example in Nikolaus Lenau in his epic poem The Albigensian . In this metaphor , the pessimistic, doubtful and sad character of the song of toom is clearly in the foreground.

“Thoughts jump into him
like startled toads into the lake,
And sing sad melodies to him.
They shout over the wide battlefield
Das Tokenlied des Doubt dull and wild:
[...] "

- Nikolaus Lenau : The Albigensians

The call to doom as an acoustic motif can also be found in the poetry of Theodor Fontane , Bettina von Arnim , Georg Heym and many other German poets .

Prophecies of doom in prose

Karl May as Kara Ben Nemsi (costume photo)

In the prose it is not so much the effect of the prophecy on people that is in the foreground, but the appearance of the toad, which is perceived as repulsive.

This motif is mainly from the story The robber Hotzenplotz of Otfried Preußler known. There the evil magician Petrosilius Zwackelmann transformed the fairy godmother Amaryllis into a toad - only Punch and Judy succeeds in lifting the magic and transforming the toad back into the fairy. Out of shock, the evil wizard falls into the pool of doom (pond) and dies. In this children's book, the toad is just something disgusting that you don't want to be turned into - if you fall into a niche, you even die.

The prophecy of doom has become famous as a sign of recognition through imitation by Karl May , in whose books it can be found in several places. For example, in Through the Land of the Skipetars , Sihdi Ali Bei says:

“'So I want to go down first,' I said. 'I immediately crawl into the bushes and from there further into the forest. I have to see you there if you are still here. There is a source; consequently there may be toads and frogs here. Such a reputation does not stand out. You stay up here until you hear my sign. If you hear the call of a toad, you stay there until the fire has gone out. But a frog croaks, only once and very deeply, so you descend. Then you stay downstairs until I come. '"

- Karl May : Through the land of the Skipetars

But also, for example, in In the Gorges of the Balkans or other Karl May books, the prophecy of doom can be found as a distinguishing mark, including the Indian stories that take place in North America - where there are no toads.

Finally, the narrative work of Günter Grass also includes a short story called Doomsday (1992), which was made into a film by Robert Gliński in 2005 .

Toons in comics and film

For decades, the Salamander shoe company published advertising booklets with the cartoon character Lurchi , which reported about five animal friends around a fire salamander - one of the animals is the male toad Unkerich . In contrast to living toads, this does not have the warning color on the belly side, but on the rest of the body - the belly, however, is white. Unkerich's very fat stature is striking. He wears black boots and a wide belt, and on his head he always has an official blue cap with a red rim. Evil tongues claim that the figure is similar to Hermann Göring . Unkerich always plays a seemingly ridiculous authority like a school caretaker, police officer or the like - in issue 53 Unkerich dresses up as a woman and looks particularly ridiculous.

The toad is briefly mentioned in the 89th episode of the television series The Enchanting Jeannie . Here Jeannie's evil sister claims that Jeannie herself was born in the unlucky star sign of the toad and brings bad luck or even death to those who love her.


  • Andreas Nöllert, Christel Nöllert: The amphibians of Europe . Franckh-Kosmos, Stuttgart 1992. ISBN 3-440-06340-2
  • Rainer Günther (Ed.): The amphibians and reptiles of Germany . Gustav Fischer Verlag, Jena 1996. ISBN 3-437-35016-1
  • Sergius L. Kuzmin: The amphibians of Russia and neighboring areas . New Brehm library. Vol. 627. Westarp Sciences, Magdeburg 1995. ISBN 3-89432-457-0
  • Axel Kwet: Reptiles and Amphibians of Europe . Franckh-Kosmos, Stuttgart 2005. ISBN 3-440-10237-8
  • René E. Honegger: Threatened Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe. Supplementary Volume of “Handbook of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe”. Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, Wiesbaden 1981. ISBN 3-400-00437-5
  • Birgit Gollmann, Günter Gollmann: The yellow-bellied toad - from the wallow to the wheel track . Journal of Field Herpetology. Supplement 4. Laurenti-Verlag, Bielefeld 2002. ISBN 3-933066-10-7
  • Andreas Krone, Klaus-Detlef Kühnel (Ed.): The red-bellied toad (Bombina bombina) - ecology and population situation . RANA. Special edition 1. Verlag Natur und Text, Rangsdorf 1996. ISBN 3-9803856-9-8
  • Jacob Grimm: German Mythology. Complete edition. Marix Verlag: Wiesbaden 2007, ISBN 978-3-86539-143-8 .

Web links

Commons : Bombina  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Toad  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


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  2. Diego San Mauro, Mario García-París, Rafael Zardoya: Phylogenetic relationships of discoglossid frogs (Amphibia: Anura: Discoglossidae) based on complete mitochondrial genomes and nuclear genes . in: genes. Elsevier, Amsterdam 343.2004, pp. 357-366. ISSN  0378-1119
  3. Guohua Yu, Junxing Yang, Mingwang Zhang, Dingqi Rao: Phylogenetic and Systematic Study of the Genus Bombina (Amphibia: Anura: Bombinatoridae): New Insights from Molecular Data . In: Journal of Herpetology . tape 41 , no. 3 , 2007, p. 365-377 (English).
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  5. ^ Properz : Elegies. in: Ancient poetry from Homer to Nonnos . Directmedia Publishing, Berlin 2004. ISBN 3-89853-430-8 (CD-ROM)
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This article was added to the list of excellent articles on May 12, 2006 in this version .