Frog of the Week

Plains Spadefoot Toad (Spea bombifrons)

Plains Spadefoot Toad
Plains Spadefoot Toad – photo by John P Clare
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Common Name: Plains Spadefoot Toad
Scientific Name: Spea bombifrons
Family: Scaphiopodidae – Spadefoot Toad family
Locations: Canada, Mexico, United States
US Locations: Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming
Size: 1.5 – 2.5 inches (38.1 – 63.5 mm)

The Plains Spadefoot Toad is a secretive toad. It spends most of its time underground only to come up to breed or to feed. They are also nocturnal so its even less likely that you will see them. The best time to see them is during warm rains. The Plains Spadefoot Toad is a great burrower because of keratonized sheaths called spades on its rear feet, hence their name. These help them dig easier. To escape freezing during winter, they even dig below the frost line to survive. Another noticeable feature of spade foot toads are their vertical and elliptical pupils.

Breeding for the Plains Spadefoot Toad follows warm, heavy rains, making them an explosive breeders. Breeding only lasts a few days but the females can lay 2000 eggs during the time. Like most other frogs and toads, the males of the species are found in the shallows of a water body and produce mating calls. The female arrives at the water body and selects a mate. The male then grasps the female from behind in the amplexus pose. The female then releases her eggs and the male fertilizes them. The eggs hatch a few days after being laid and tadpoles emerge. The time needed to complete their metamorphism depends on the temperature. At higher temperatures, they can complete their metamorphism in 14 days while colder temperatures, it can last over a month.

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