The Nature Bible

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Nature · Earth · Climate

Lunar Landings






The results of a study, carried out by National Charity Froglife, and recently published in The European Journal of Wildlife Research, has shown that the peak migration of both common toads and common frogs coincides with the waxing phases of the moon. It reaches a climax around the full moon, as, en masse, they make their way to their breeding sites.


Whilst previous research has shown the effects of rainfall and temperature on this annual journey of frogs and toads, up until now, no lunar research had been undertaken or recorded. The research, carried out by Froglife, using their data at 43 sites across the UK over 4 years, showed that the highest numbers of common toads (Bufo bufo) and common frogs (Rana temporaria) occur on warm and damp evenings close to a full moon.


These findings are crucial in providing guidance for amphibian conservation initiatives such as 'Toads on Roads' as they will help inform patrollers on the most effective timing to help toads and frogs cross roads safely, at a time when common toad populations are under threat. A study undertaken by Froglife in 2016 revealed that common toads have declined by 68% over the past 30 years in the UK. If this continues we could lose all our common toads by 2030.


Common Toads are very particular about where they breed and they migrate back to their ancestral breeding ponds each year, following the same route, which often leads to them crossing busy roads and also being stuck down drains. Froglife has been co-ordinating 'Toads on Roads' patrols manned by volunteers up and down the country for around 30 years. Migration can run from as early as January to as late as April and patrollers can't always be out every night, so they need all the pointers they can get.


Dr Laurence Jarvis, the main author of the paper said, "Overall this study has implications for the conservation of both species. The main findings of this research show that both common frogs and common toads have their peak migration close to a full moon. Both species are explosive breeders, which means that they are only at breeding ponds for one or two weeks per year. Therefore, it is crucial that individuals synchronise their movements to ensure highest mating success. Both species become active when the first mild weather occurs in spring. However, the timing of this is highly unpredictable, due to variations in local conditions. Therefore, we suggest that the first activity of common frogs and common toads occurs in the first mild weather and they then synchronise peak breeding activity at ponds at the next full moon. This ensures the highest number of individuals are at ponds for breeding."