A nocturnal and largely terrestrial amphibian (3) (4) (6), the Iberian midwife toad lives most of its life away from water. This species spends a large amount of time underground and is known to dig and bury itself in sandy soil to avoid drying out. It is a particularly efficient burrower, using its forelimbs to excavate soil and its head to scoop the debris out of the way (4).
The breeding season of the Iberian midwife toad occurs between September and March, with a peak in breeding activity around October and November (2). The male advertises for a mate by calling for several hours a night throughout the breeding season (2) (4). The female will respond to the vocalisations of the male by calling back in reply (2) (4) (7), a behaviour which is fairly unusual among most frogs and toads (4) (7). The Iberian midwife toad is not usually territorial, although some non-aggressive competition between males for access to females does occur (4) (7).
The male and female Iberian midwife toad may call with one another for several minutes before going into amplexus (7). The female seeks out the male, who will then grab the female by the waist (2) (3) (4) (5). The female responds with a side-to-side rocking motion of the body (2). The male will then squeeze the female’s sides, causing the release of a string of up to 100 eggs into a cup-shaped receptacle, which is formed by the female bending the legs, pressing the heels together and holding them against the body. The eggs are fertilised by the male (4) (5).
This species is highly unusual in that the male provides most of the parental care (4). Following amplexus, the male Iberian midwife toad will move its back legs through the string of eggs, winding them around the legs and ankles. The eggs are carried in this position for around three to five weeks, during which time they are protected by the male and kept moist until they are ready to be returned to water to hatch into tadpoles (3) (4) (6) (7) (8).
The female Iberian midwife toad may produce up to four clutches of eggs during the breeding season (2). The male frequently mates with more than one female, and is able to carry up to four strings of eggs wrapped around its legs (2) (4) (5). This species becomes sexually mature at around two years old (2) (4).
As well as its unusual breeding behaviour, the Iberian midwife toad is also unusual among amphibians in having a powerful defence mechanism against predators. Like other members of its family, this species produces a potent, strong-smelling toxin from the warts on its back when threatened (4).