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American Spadefoot Toads
Spea hammondii 1.jpg
Western Spadefoot Toad (Spea hammondii)
Scientific classification

Cope, 1865


Distribution of Scaphiopodidae (in black)

The Scaphiopodidae are a family of American spadefoot toads, which are native to North America. The family is small, comprising only seven different species.

The American spadefoot toads are of typical shape to most burrowing frogs. They are round, with short legs and protruding eyes. As suggested by their name, these frogs have hard, protrusions present on their feet, which help them to dig.

Like most burrowing frogs, they dig backwards into the ground. They are different from true toads because they have vertica pupils and no parotoid gland.

The American spadefoot toads are terrestrial when not underground. They are dully colored, usually a grey or dull green or brown, to aid in camouflage in their arid habitats.

Location and Environment

Flickr - ggallice - Toad
Species of American spadefoot toad

The seven species of Scaphiopodidae are found in different locations across North America. The Eastern Spadefoot is the only species found east of the Mississippi River, ranging from New England to southern Florida.

The Great Basin Spadefoot and the Plains Spadefoot are both found in western Canada and the northwestern U.S. but the Plains Spadefoot has also spread into Texas and northern Mexico.

The Couch’s Spadefoot, Hurter’s Spadefoot and New Mexico Spadefoot are all spread across the southern and southwestern U.S. with the Couch’s and Hurter’s also reaching into Mexico. The Western Spadefoot is the only species found in California, mainly southern parts of the state and extending into Mexico as well.

The toads are believed to have moved into North America from South American Countries due to changing climate. They most likely moved into the U.S. as a single species, but split up as they spread across the continent and adapted to their new surroundings.

The toads prefer marsh-like environments, but only enter the water to breed. They stay buried in the soil for most of the year as a mechanism to deal with changing weather.


American Eastern Spadefoot Toad
American Eastern Spadefoot Toad

The American Spadefoot Toad has a unique diet. The adult’s diet and the tadpole’s diet vary. The adults diet consists of invertebrates. They eat [[flies[[, crickets, caterpillars, moths, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, earthworms and snails.

The tadpole’s diet is related to its surroundings and food supply. When they are first born, they eat microscopic plants called plankton. After a few days they become carnivorous and eat meat.

Since American Spadefoot Toads breed in shallow waters, they are under “constant stress from drying waters, increasing temperatures, reduced food densities, and crowding”.

Conservation Efforts

Southern Spadefoot toad, florida
Southern Spadefoot toad

The eastern Spadefoot entered the endangered list of Pennsylvania in 2005 (though also endangered in: Ohio, Connecticut, and Rhode Island), when living populations were only found in two of their known locations. Which is odd because the American Spadefoot tadpole has the highest metamorphosis rates in any amphibian.

Though one possibility for their lacking of population size could be that, “the pools often dry up before the tadpoles get to complete metamorphosis”

So far conservation efforts have made effect in the prevention of the species habitat loss.

The Western Spadefoot Toads can mainly be found only in California and Baja California, Mexico

In 2012 a couple learned that thirty two acres of a property they planned to subdivide and break ground on could potentially be Spadefoot habitat. So as per a species action plan by Berks county conservancy and its partners, the couple needed to seek state approval and to hire someone familiar with the Eastern Spadefoot Toad to survey the tract for signs of its habitat.

As per conservation efforts, the awareness of citizens to the endangerment of Spadefoot toads in their regions has been a success. Though more effort is still needed to ensure the future of the Eastern Spadefoot toad.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Scaphiopodidae para niños

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