Frog of the Week

Hurter’s Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus hurterii)

Common Name: Hurter’s Spadefoot Toad
Scientific Name: Scaphiopus hurterii
Family: Scaphiopodidae – American Spadefoot Toad family
Locations: United States and Mexico
US Locations: Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma
Size: 1.75 – 3.25 inches (4.4 – 8.3 cm)

The Hurter’s Spadefoot Toad is named after naturalist Julius Hurter, former curator of the St. Louis Academy of Science. They were once considered a subspecies of the Eastern Spadefoot Toad but was moved to being a full species. Like all Spadefoot Toads, the Hurter’s Spadefoot Toad is mostly fossorial, spending most of its time in burrows underground. They have keratonized sheaths on their rear feet that they use to help dig. Spadefoot toads can be distinguished from other groups of toads due to their vertical, cat-like eyes.

The easiest time to find a Hurter’s Spadefoot Toad is during the breeding season from late spring into summer. They breed following heavy storms that fill up temporary pools of water. Mating only lasts a day or two so you need to get out there quick. The males will call out from the shallows of the pools to attract a mate. Once the mate arrives, the male will grasp her from behind in the amplexus position. Then, the female will lay her eggs and then the male will fertilize. Neither parent provides any care for the offspring.The eggs hatch in 48 hours and the tadpoles complete their metamorphosis in two weeks. This is due to the limit time they have before the pond dries up. Surprisingly, the tadpoles will eat each other if there isn’t enough food in the ponds.

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Two New Toad Species from the Western USA

Two new species of true toads from the family Bufonidae, the True Toad family was discovered in the state of Nevada in the United States. They were confused with the Western Toad (Anaxyrus boreas), very much like the newly discovered Dixie Valley Toad (Anaxyrus williamsi). Researchers, Michelle R. GordonEric T. SimandleFranziska C. SandmeierC. Richard Tracy, performed genetic testings to discover the new species.

photo by M. R. Gordon

 Railroad Valley Toad (Anaxyrus nevadensis)

The name of the toad comes from the area it was found, the Railroad Valley. They are a rather small toad, averaging only 2.5 inches long. Another distinguishable trait of the Railroad Valley Toad is their mottled stomach.

photo by M. R. Gordon

Hot Creek Toad (Anaxyrus monfontanus)

Just like the Railroad Valley Toad, the Hot Creek Toad is named after the area that they are found in. They are smaller than the Railroad Valley Toad, only averaging around 2.3 inches (59.6 mm). The Hot Creek Toad has rather larger parotoid glands (ball behind the eye) for such a small toad.

The life history of the toads are not much different than the most other toads. They are nocturnal, emerging from their burrows at night to hunt and eat.

You can read the full scientific paper here – https://bioone.org/journals/Copeia/volume-108/issue-1/CH-18-086/Two-New-Cryptic-Endemic-Toads-of-Bufo-Discovered-in-Central/10.1643/CH-18-086.full

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Dixie Valley Toad (Anaxyrus williamsi)

photo by Kris Urquhart/USFWS

Common Name: Dixie Valley Toad
Scientific Name: Anaxyrus williamsi
Family: Bufonidae – True Toad family
Locations: United States – Nevada
Size: 2 inches (50.8 mm)

The Dixie Valley Toad is a relatively new species, only being described in 2017. Before, it was considered an isolated population of the Western Toad (Anaxyrus boreas). Physical and genetic tests revealed that it was in fact, its own species. Dixie Valley Toad is physically different than the Western Toad. They have gold specks on its body and is smaller than the Western Toad.

Most life history of the Dixie Valley Toad is presumed to be similar to the Western Toad. They are a nocturnal species, living under rocks or burrowed in the dirt during the day. Reproduction is external. The males will call to attract females. Once the female selects a male, the male will grasp the female from behind. The female will then lay her eggs and the male will fertilize them. No parental care has been shown.

While only just described, the toad is already a candidate for the Endangered Species List. The exact number of toads are unknown but their range is small. Their habitat is already threatened by a geothermal energy plant that has plans to go up right next to it.

Toad Tuesday

Western European Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates cultripes)

Jean-Laurent Hentz

Common Name: Western European Spadefoot Toad, Iberian Spadefoot Toad, Spanish Spadefoot Toad, and Wagler’s Spadefoot Toad
Scientific Name: Pelobates cultripes
Family: Pelobatidae – European Spadefoot Toad Family
Locations: France, Portugal, and Spain
Size: 4.9 inches (12.5 cm)

The Western European Spadefoot Toad gets its name due to the spades on its rear feet. The toad uses these spades to burrow down in the ground, over 7 inches deep. They prefer habitat with sandy soils or loosely compact soils since its easier to dig there. The toad is nocturnal so it is hard to find but they often come to the surface after rains.

The Western European Spadefoot Toad breeds from October to May. Males will call from temporary pools to attract females. Females will sometimes call too. Once the female selects a mate, the male will grasp the female frog behind in amplexus. The female will then lay her eggs and the males will fertilize them. Females will lay between 1000 – 4000 eggs. The tadpoles take 4 to 6 months to complete their metamorphism.

The Western Spadefoot Toad is listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The habitat they call home is being destroyed for more urban development. Introduced species, such as the Louisiana Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) and the Eastern Mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki), feed on the tadpoles and eggs, decreasing their population.

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Sonoran Green Toad (Anaxyrus retiformis)

photo by William Flaxington

Common Name: Sonoran Green Toad, Pima Green Toad
Scientific Name: Anaxyrus retiformis
Family: Bufonidae – True Toad Family
Locations: Mexico and the United States
US Locations: Arizona
Size: 1.5 – 2 inches (40 – 49 mm)

The Sonoran Green Toad is known for their yellow / green spots on the dark black background. The toad has lived over 15 years in captivity, which is relatively long for a toad. They are a highly fossorial frog, spending most of their days underground.

Once the summer rains come, the male Sonoran Green Toad comes to temporary filled pools to breed. The males will start to call from grass surrounding the pools to attract females. They are known as explosive breeders due to them only mating for a few days compared to weeks like other frogs. The females will carry the male from the grasses to the water where the females will lay her eggs and the male will fertilize them. The two toads will then part ways and provide no care for the offspring. Females will lay between 5 to 200 eggs. The eggs will hatch into tadpoles in 2 – 3 days. Then, the tadpoles take 2 to 3 weeks to complete their metamorphosis.

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European Green Toad (Bufotes viridis)

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photo by Umberto Salvagnin

Common Name: European Green Toad
Scientific Name: Bufotes viridis
Family: Bufonidae – True Toad family
Locations: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and the Ukraine
Size: 4.7 inches (120 mm)

The European Green Toad is a beautiful toad found in varies habitats throughout Europe including forests, steppes, and deserts. Like most toads, the Green Toad is mostly fossorial, spending their time burrowed underground. They are estimated to live as long as 10 years.

The European Green Toad can reproduce in a wide range of habitats, including ponds, swamps, stream pools, and lakes. Most toads and frogs can only breed in fresh water while the Green Toad can breed in fresh and brackish (slightly salty) water. The reproduction season is wide ranging from February to July depending on location. Males will call from the shallows to attract females. Males and females will pair up in amplexus position. The females will lay their eggs and males will then fertilize them. The females can live between 5,000 and 13,000 eggs.

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Arizona toad (Anaxyrus microscaphus)

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photo by William Flaxington
least concern

Common Name: Arizona Toad
Scientific Name: Anaxyrus microscaphus
Family: Bufonidae – True Toad family
Locations: United States – Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah
Size: 2- 3 inches (50 – 80 mm)

The Arizona Toad was first described for a specimen from Arizona, hence the name. It is also found all over the southwestern United States. Like most toads, the Arizona Toad is nocturnal (active at night) and spends most of their time underground. They come up to the surface at night to eat.

While the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List has them listed as only Least Concern, the populations are slowly declining due to habitat destruction and hybridization. The Arizona Toad and the Woodhouse’s Toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii) hybridize and pushes the Arizona Toad out of areas.

Breeding happens for a short period of time from February to April. Breeding only takes 10 to 12 days. The males will call from the shallows of pools next to streams and rivers. Females will choose a mate and the two will pair up in amplexus. The female will then lay her eggs and the males will fertilize them. The female will lay an average of 4500 eggs. The eggs take 3 to 6 days to hatch. The tadpoles then take 1 to 3 months to complete their metamorphosis.

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Enrichment for Frogs and Toads

Enrichment has become an integral part of the captive care of animals. Enrichment is important to help keep animals mental and physical stats well. Sadly, most of the knowledge and ideas about enrichment is about mammals. Reptiles and amphibians are sadly, often missed when it comes to enrichment but I don’t! I will go over some ideas for enrichment for frogs and toads.

Diet Variety

One of the easiest and often missed enrichment opportunities is using a variety of different food items for frogs and toads. Often keepers feed their frogs or toads just crickets or Dubai roaches. There are a variety of prey items that one can feed your frog or toad including meal worms, horn worms, and earthworms.

Feeding Time Variety

Another simple enrichment idea is just changing when you feed them. People become used to feeding their animals at certain times of the day but adding variety in the time can help them out.

Tong Feeding vs Active Hunting

There are generally two different methods of feeding for frogs and toads. You can either feed each food item to the animal with tongs or release the food items into the tank for them to hunt down on their own. Tong feeding allows the keeper to monitor the exact amount of food each animal is receiving and allows all animals to be fed evenly. When frogs and toads are housed together, one individual may eat more of the food than the others if not tong fed, causing an imbalance. Allowing the frogs and toads to actively hunt down their food provides more psychological enrichment for the animals. I try to balance the two out.

Shelter

Frogs and toads need to be provided shelter to hide in. I don’t really think of this as enrichment but as a basic need but others think its enrichment so I will include it. Often keepers won’t provide shelter due to them wanting to see their frog or toads all the time. Put your animals needs first. PVC pipes are commonly used item for aquatic / terrestrial species to hide in. Arboreal species should have hanging leaves on their tanks for them to climb up and hide in. Burrowing species should have enough dirt in their tank to burrow down and hide in. Those are some of the most basic ways to provide shelter. You can add plants, branches, or rocks to any tank to create more areas for hiding.

Bioactive Enclosures / Tanks

In the search for the most naturalistic environment for reptiles and amphibians, bioactive enclosures were created. These enclosures don’t just have a few live plants in them, but try to create a whole mini ecosystem. Springtails, isopods, or other invertebrates are added to help break down waste. It is believed that these set ups will make the animals feel more natural.

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Canadian Toad (Anaxyrus hemiophrys)

photo by ceasol

Common Name: Canadian Toad
Scientific Name: Anaxyrus hemiophrys
Family: Bufonidae – True Toad Family
Locations: Canada and the United States
US Locations: Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming
Size: 1.5 -3.45 inches (3.7-8.3 cm)

The Canadian Toad is more aquatic than most toad species in North America. They can be found in or near prairie wetlands. For the winter, the Canadian Toad can burrow below the frost line. They also overwinter within mima mounds, small earth mounds. These mounds can hold hundreds of toads at a time.

The Canadian Toad breeds from May to July depending on the location. They breed in shallow areas of water such as lakes, ponds, and temporary bodies of water. They lay several thousand eggs that hatch in 3 to 12 days. The tadpoles take 6 to 8 weeks to turn into full toads.

Toad Tuesday

Great Plains Toad (Anaxyrus cognatus)

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photo by William Flaxington
least concern


Common Name: Great Plains Toad
Scientific Name: Anaxyrus cognatus
Family: Bufonidae – True Toad family
Locations: Canada, Mexico, the United States
US Locations: Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming
Size: 2 – 4.5 inches (5 – 11.43 cm)

The adult Great Plains Toad spends most of its life burrowed underground. They are nocturnal so the best time to see them is at night when they are foraging for food above ground. Toads have been seen out of their burrows during the day during rains or just after. They can also be seen outside their burrows during the mating season. When the heavy spring rains come, the toads emerge from their burrows and move to their breeding area.

photo by John P Clare

The breeding season is generally between March and September but in the northern part of the range, its restricted to May to July. The Great Plains Toad breed in a variety of habitats such as temporary pools, slow streams, holding ponds, and irrigation ditches. The toads prefer temporary bodies of water but will use permanent bodies. Males call from the shores to attract females. Females approach males that they deem fit and mating happens. The male will grasp the female from behind in the amplexus position. The female will then lay her eggs and the male will fertilize them. The females can lay up to 20,000 eggs at a time. After the female lays her clutches of eggs, both the male and female leave the eggs on their own.

Eggs hatch in under a week and the tadpoles begin to undergo metamorphosis between 17 and 45 days. Metamorphism happens rather quickly due to the Great Plains Toad’s preference for temporary pools and the fear of the pools drying out before the toads finish undergoing their metamorphism.