Description: The Eastern Spadefoot Toad is a large toad,
ranging from 1.6 - 3.1 in (4 - 8 cm) long. Their skin is smoother
and moister than other toads and is speckled with tiny warts.
This species varies in coloration tan or yellowish to dark brown,
without bold spots (as in other Southeastern Toads). They usually
have two vertical light lines running from the back of their eyes
down their dorsum, forming an hourglass shape. The lines are generally
more brilliant yellow in males. The characteristics used to immediately
distinguish this species from other species of toads are their
bright yellow eyes with elliptical pupils (like cat eyes)
and the dark spade, which is used for digging, on each
Range and Habitat: Spadefoot Toads are found throughout
the eastern United States. In our region they are most abundant
in the Coastal Plain and are found in scattered populations in
the Piedmont but are absent from high elevations of the Appalachian
Mountains. This species prefers dry habitats with sandy soils
but can be found in almost any habitat. Their ability to remain
buried for long periods allows them to persist even in suburban
and agricultural areas. Spadefoot toads breed in fishless water
bodies and can even successfully breed in large puddles and roadside
Habits: Spadefoot toads are extremely fossorial, spending
most their life buried underground and are explosive breeders.
Heavy rains, occurring at nearly any time of year, cause them
to emerge in large numbers and congregate at breeding in wetlands
or ephemeral pools created by the rain. Males call while floating
on the surface of the water. Females can lay up to 2,500 eggs
at once. Tadpoles grow very quickly and can undergo metamorphosis
in as few as 28 days. Data from the Savannah River Ecology Lab
have shown that this species is very long lived and populations
often go for many years without successful reproductive events.
Call: The call of the Spadefoot Toad is a low-pitched "waaah,"
repeated on short intervals.
Interesting Facts: Some people think that Spadefoot Toads
smell like peanut butter. People who handle these toads sometimes
incur an allergic reaction characterized by sneezing, wheezing,
and red eyes.
Conservation Status: Although common and not protected
in our region, this species is a conservation concern in some
northern portions of its range. This species is vulnerable to
habitat loss, particularly wetland destruction.
Greenberg, C. and G. Tanner. 2004. Breeding Pond Selection and
Movement Patterns by Eastern Spadefoot Toads (Scaphiopus holbrookii)
in Relation to Weather and Edaphic Conditions. Journal of Herpetology
Account Author: Kelly Overduijn, University of Georgia
- edited by J.D. Willson