Frog of the Week

Couch’s Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus couchii)

Couch's Spadefoot Toad
Photo by Clinton & Charles Robertson

leastconcern
Common Name: Couch’s Spadefoot Toad
Scientific Name: Scaphiopus couchii
Family: Scaphiopodidae – Spadefoot Toad family
Location: Mexico and the United States of America.
US Location: Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas
Size: 3 inches (8 cms)

Like all Spadefoot Toads, the Couch’s Spadefoot Toad has a keratonized sheath on it’s back feet. They use this “spade” to help them dig. The Coach’s Spadefoot Toad has a more sickle-shaped spade which can help distinguish it from other Spadefoot toads. The toad is named after Darius N. Couch, who collected the first specimen observed by white people. It is not a couch potato.

Couch's Spadefoot Toad
photo by John P Clare

For most of the year, the Couch’s Spadefoot Toad is found burrowed down underneath the ground during the day, only coming up at night to hunt. This is called a fossorial lifestyle. The breeding season for the toad starts when the spring and summer rains come, between April and August. These rains fill up temporary pools that are used to breed in. First, The males arrive at the pools and start to call. Once a female shows up, the male grasps her from behind in the amplexus position. Then, she lays her eggs and the male fertilizes them. The female can lay over 3000 eggs in a clutch. Once the eggs are laid, neither parent provides any care for them and they go on their way.

The new babies are on a time crunch. They must complete their metamorphosis before their pond dries up or they will die. The eggs hatch in less than a day. Then, the tadpoles take as little as a week to complete their metamorphosis. Even at these speeds, a lot of the young don’t make it.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List classifies the toad as Least Concern for Extinction. They have a fairly large range and are found in good numbers throughout it. Currently, there are no major threats to the species.

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