Painted frog
(Discoglossus pictus)
D. pictus was the first species of painted frog to be described, and can be plain in colour, have large dark spots with light edges or dark longitudinal bands and bright bands along the sides.  Little is known about the status of populations within its native range.  D. pictus pictus is native to the Mediterranean islands of Sicily, Malta and Gozo, whilst the North African subspecies D. pictus auritus is native to Algeria and Tunisia.  Unlike some of the other painted frog species, it is able to tolerate a range of conditions and is found in varied habitats from sandy coastal areas to woodlands and vineyards, and breeds in anything from marshes to pipes, cisterns and cattle tracks.  D. pictus auritus is expanding its range in France and Spain, where it is an introduced species.

Urgent Conservation Actions
North Africa and Europe.
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Anura
Family: Alytidae
The Alytidae are an ancient family found in Europe, the Middle East and Northwestern Africa, and are comprised of the midwife toads (Alytes) and painted frogs (Discoglossus).  Overall, this family is now named after the midwife toads.  The family name was formerly Discoglossidae or ‘disc-tongued frogs’ because, unlike the slender tongues of many amphibians, midwife toads and painted frogs possess a round and flattened tongue.  They diverged from the fire bellied toad lineage and all other amphibians about 210 millions years ago at the end of the Triassic period, around the same time that the first primitive mammals started to appear.  The midwife toad family therefore evolved at the feet of some of the earliest dinosaurs, and survived the dinosaur’s demise nearly 150 million years later.

Within the family Alytidae, the painted frogs diverged from the midwife toads about 155 million years ago, about 5 million years before the first birds started to appear in the fossil record.  Painted frogs are more different from their closest relatives in terms of evolutionary time than kangaroos are to elephants, as they started to evolve independently about 10 million years before the common ancestor of these two mammal groups.

The number of species in this group has been the subject of debate since the discovery of Discoglossus in the 1830s.  For over a hundred years it was contested whether the two described forms, D. pictus and D. sardus, even deserved subspecies status.  Developments in molecular biology allowing the study of genetic make-up have revealed a high level of divergence within the group, and have identified a number of new species.  It is currently being debated whether there are six or seven species within the Discoglossus genus. 
Unlike their closest relatives the midwife toads, which are relatively stocky and toad-like, painted frogs have classic frog features such as a slim waist, long legs and webbed toes on their hind feet.  Their pupils are round, triangular or ‘upside-down teardrop’ shaped, and their skin is generally smooth and shiny with small but visible warts.  The name comes from the variety of colour variations and patterns seen in the group; some are plain in colour whilst others have stripes, spots, bands and blotches of varying tones. 

D. pictus can be plain in colour with no markings, or can have large dark spots with light edges and/or dark and bright longitudinal bands.  The underside is whitish in colour, and warts (when present) are arranged in longitudinal patterns down the back.
This particular species of painted frog is euryoecious, meaning tolerant to a range of environmental conditions, and so can establish itself in a variety of habitats.  This has enabled D. pictus to take to areas where it has been introduced, and it is steadily extending its range in Catalonia.

During the breeding season, male painted frogs develop ‘nuptial pads’ on their fingers and under their chin and belly – these are large, thickened pads which help the male to grip on to the female as she lays her eggs, so that he can avoid slipping off before being able to fertilise them!  A female may mate with a series of males in a night, laying a total of 500 to 1,000 eggs.  A small clump of 20 to 50 eggs is laid into water after each copulation, and sits on the water surface or sinks to the bottom.  Tadpoles hatch out in two to six days and metamorphose into froglets of 10mm after one to three months.  Froglets are wholly terrestrial and become semi-aquatic at sexual maturity, which is reached after two or three years.

The disc-shaped tongues seen in this group of frogs are not long and free to be flicked out of the mouth to capture insects in mid-air.  Instead, invertebrate prey items are gobbled straight into the mouth, enabling them to catch their food whilst on land or in water. 
Being tolerant to a variety of environments, this species of painted frog is found in a range of Mediterranean habitats.  These include open areas, sandy coastal areas, pastures, woods, forests, vineyards and other cultivated areas.  Most types of still water habitat are used for breeding, including temporary water bodies, marshes and brackish water, and man-made water bodies such as pipes, canals, irrigation channels and cisterns.  The African subspecies D. pictus auritus inhabits humid mountain regions of the Maghreb, and is found in brooklets, irrigation ditches and cattle tracks filled with water.  When on land, D. pictus auritus digs itself into flat cavities under stones to escape the heat.
Discoglossus pictus pictus is native to the Mediterranean islands of Sicily, Malta and Gozo.  The North African subspecies D. pictus auritus is native to Algeria and Tunisia, and has been introduced to southern France and the Girona Province of northeastern Spain, where it is expanding its range at a rate of around 10km2 every 6 to 7 years.  In Algeria, D. pictus auritus has been found at elevations up to 1,000 metres, whilst D. pictus pictus in Sicily ranges from sea level up to 1,500 metres.
Population Estimate
The introduced populations on the Iberian peninsular are abundant and expanding in range.  It is believed to be common through some of its native distribution, although further information is called for by the IUCN.
Population Trend
The IUCN has placed this species of painted frog in the Least Concern category due to its relatively wide distribution and its ability to tolerate a broad range of habitats.
Local threats include urbanisation and the decline of traditional methods of agriculture in Sicily and groundwater extraction on Malta and Gozo, which is causing a reduction in groundwater levels.
Conservation Underway
This species is known to be present in protected areas in Italy.  It is protected by national legislation in Italy, and also in France and Cataluña (although non-native to these areas).  EU legislation also lists it as a strictly protected species under the Bern Convention and the Natural Habitats Directive.
Conservation Proposed
The IUCN have said that further information is needed about the status of D. pictus populations in the native part of its range.
AmphibiaWeb           http://amphibiaweb.org/

Global Amphibian Assessment       http://www.iucnredlist.org/amphibians

Tree of Life Web Project      http://tolweb.org/tree/
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Bruce, H. M., Parkes, A. S. 1947. Observations on Discoglossus pictus Otth. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 134B(874): 37-56.

Busack, S. D. 1986. Biochemical and morphological differentiation in Spanish and Moroccan populations of Discoglossus and the description of a new species from southern Spain (Amphibia, Anura, Discoglossidae). Annals of Carnegie Museum 55: 41-61.

Capula, M. and Corti, M. 1993. Morphometric variation and divergence in the West Mediterranean Discoglossus (Amphibia: Discoglossidae). Journal of Zoology, proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 231: 141-156.

Capula, M., Nascetti, G., Lanza, B., Bullini, L. and Crespo, E. G. 1985. Morphological and genetic differentiation between the Iberian and the other West Mediterranean Discoglossus species (Amphibia Salientia Discoglossidae). Monitore Zoologico Italiano (N.S.) 19: 69-90.

Fromhage, L., Vences, M. and Veith, M. 2004. Testing alternative vicariance scenarios in Western Mediterranean discoglossid frogs. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 31: 308-322.

Frost, D. 2008. Amphibian Species of the World: an Online Reference. Version 5.2 (09 January 2009). Electronic Database accessible at: http://research.amnh.org/herpetology/amphibia/index.php. American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA.

Halliday, T. and Adler, K. 2002. The New Encylopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press , UK.

Lanza, B., Cei, J. M. and Crespo, E. 1975. Immunological evidence for the specific status of Discoglossus pictus Otth, 1837 and D. sardus Tschudi, 1837, with notes on the families Discoglossidae Günther, 1858 and Bombinidae Fitzinger, 1826 (Amphibia Salientia). Monitore Zoologico Italiano (N.S.) 9: 153-162.

Lanza, B., Nascetti, G., Capula, M. and Bullini, L. 1984. Genetic relationships among West Mediterranean Discoglossus with the description of a new species (Amphibia Salientia Discoglossidae). Monitore Zoologico Italiano (N.S.) 18: 133-152.

Martinez-Solano, I. 2004. Phylogeography of Iberian Discoglossus (Anura: Discoglossidae). Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 42(4): 298-305.

San Mauro, D. 2004. Phylogenetic relationships of discoglossid frogs (Amphibia: Anura: Discoglossidae) based on complete mitochondrial genomes and nuclear genes. Gene 343(2): 357-366.

Veith, M. and Martens, H. 1987. What’s the part of Discoglossus pictus? – Analysis of an ecological niche in a frog community. Proceedings of the 4th Ordinary General Meeting of the Societas Europaea Herpetologica: 433-436.

Veith, M. and Martens, H. 1997. Discoglossus pictus. In: Gasc et al. (eds.) Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe. Societas Europa Herpetologica, Muséum National D’Histoire Naturelle, Paris.

Zangari, F., Cimmaruta, R. and Nascetti, G. 2006. Genetic relationships of western Mediterranean painted frogs based on allozymes and mitochondrial markers: evolutionary and taxonomic inferences (Amphibia, Anura, Discoglossidae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 87:515-536.

Distribution dataset:  IUCN 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. http://www.iucnredlist.org

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