Spadefoot Toad

The Facts

  • Genus/Species: Mesobatrachia. There are different species.
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern
  • Where found: Europe, Southern Asia, Northwest Africa, and North America.

Spadefoot Toad
Spadefoot Toad

The Scoop

Legs That Are Spades

Spadefoot toads are rarely seen- they are usually found in deserts and they deal with the hot dry weather by spending most of their time underground. The spadefoot toad is a burrowing species of toad. It gets its name from its wide flat feet that look like spades! These toads have a ridge of hard skin on the back of each foot, which they use like a shovel to dig in the soft earth to make their burrows. When it rains, they hurry to the surface to mate and lay their eggs. Because spadefoot toads live in dry places, the tadpoles develop into toadlets in a short amount of time, because the water they need to grow can dry up quickly. There are two main types of spadefoot toads. You have the ones that live in North America- and then you have the other ones that live in Europe, Western Asia and Northern Africa.

Spadefoot toads grow to about 2.5 inches in length - about as long as an adult’s finger - and are usually gray or olive in color. Spadefoot toads spend weeks underground but will come to the surface at night time after heavy rain, when the air is moist, so that they can feed. Tadpoles have a primarily vegetarian diet when they are young. As the spadefoot toad gets older, they begin to eat snails, grasshoppers and caterpillars.  Though spadefoot toads are not threatened, their population is concentrated in a few large breeding sites. This makes the species vulnerable to drastic decline if their living spaces are to be disturbed. 


Did You Know?

  • Spadefoot toad tadpoles develop very quickly. They can also dig holes and bury themselves until the next desert rain, when they will spawn and turn into the larger, rounder adult toads.
  • Spadefoot toads back into their burrow by moving their feet with spades in a circular motion.
  • Some people think that spadefoot toads smell like peanut butter.
  • The call of the spadefoot toad is a low-pitched "waaah," repeated at short intervals.


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