Frog of the Week

Plains Spadefoot Toad (Spea bombifrons)

Plains Spadefoot Toad
photo by John P Clare

Common Name: Plains Spadefoot Toad
Scientific Name: Spea bombifrons
Family: Scaphiopodidae – Spadefoot Toad family
Locations: Canada, Mexico, and the 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. Additionally, 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 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 spadefoot toads are their vertical and elliptical pupils.

Breeding for the Plains Spadefoot Toad follows warm, heavy rains, making them explosive breeders. The breeding season 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. Then, the female arrives at the water body and selects a mate. Next, 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 complete their metamorphism in 14 days. With colder temperatures, it can last over a month.

photo by Todd Pierson

Conservation for the Plains Spadefoot Toad

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes the Plains Spadefoot Toad as Least Concern for Extinction. They have a wide range, from Canada down to Mexico. While overall the toad is doing well, some local populations have been hurt. Urban development and expansion of farm lands has destroyed some of their habitat.

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