By Mark McConville
INCREDIBLE images and video footage has captured the bizarre group mating rituals of toads as several males attempt to mate with one female all at once.
The weird footage, taken in Priddy, Somerset, England by John Waters, shows something more akin to an animal orgy as a group of Common toads are filmed in a mating ball in a pond.
Other amusing photos show the behaviour is not unique to the Common toads that reside in the UK as photographer Edwin Giesbers witnessed the same thing in the Netherlands.
His pictures show a mating pair being joined by a somewhat unwelcome visitor as another male attempts to mate with the same female.
This kind of behaviour is not only displayed by the Common toad as American toads have been captured getting in on the act in Maryland, USA.
Photographer John Cancalosi saw a male calling, with his vocal sac inflated, to attract females.
It all begins innocuously as a mating pair is pictured but they are quickly joined by several other males who want to join in the fun.
Although toads are usually solitary animals, in the breeding season, large numbers of toads converge on certain breeding ponds, where the males compete to mate with the females.
Eggs are laid in gelatinous strings in the water and later hatch out into tadpoles. After several months of growth and development, these sprout limbs and undergo metamorphosis into tiny toads.
The juveniles emerge from the water and remain largely terrestrial for the rest of their lives.
Toads display breeding site fidelity, as do many amphibians. Individuals that return to natal ponds to breed will likely encounter siblings as potential mates. Although incest is possible, siblings rarely mate.
These toads likely recognize and actively avoid close kins as mates. Advertisement vocalizations by males appear to serve as cues by which females recognize their kin.