The effect of winter temperatures on the timing of breeding activity in the common toad Bufo bufo
A 19-year study of a common toad population in south Dorset, UK, was carried out between 1980 and 1998. The daily arrival of sexually mature male and female toads at a breeding pond was recorded each year. The timing of the main arrival of toads at the breeding pond was highly correlated with the mean daily temperatures over the 40 days immediately preceding the main arrival. When the temperatures were higher than average, breeding occurred significantly earlier in the year than if they were either average or lower than average. During the study, the toad breeding seasons were early (2–13 February) in 5 years (1989, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1998), late (16–23 March) in 2 years (1986, 1996) and average (25 February–8 March) during the remaining 12 years. Evidence was found suggesting that common toads have a daylength threshold of about 9 h, below which the migration to the breeding pond does not occur. Evidence was also found indicating that common toads in southern England have a threshold temperature for activity of about 6°C and that the onset of breeding activity is highly correlated with the number of days during the 40 days prior to the main arrival at the breeding pond that were at or above this temperature. Predicting the start of the main breeding migration to a pond in any year may be possible by comparing the pattern of the 40-day running mean daily temperatures from 21 December the preceding year with those from previous years when the start of breeding activity is known. Although all five of the earliest recorded toad breeding years occurred during the last 10 years, and were associated with the occurrence of particularly mild winters, a significant trend towards earlier breeding in recent years compared with previous years was not found.
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