Eastern Spadefoot Toad
Scaphiopus holbrookii

The eastern spadefoot toad (Scaphiopus holbrookii) ranges from southern New England south to the Florida keys and west to eastern Louisiana. Throughout its range it inhabits soils containing sand along the floodplains of streams, rivers and agricultural areas.

The spadefoot toad utilizes breeding pools with temporary hydrology. Their sporadic breeding events coincide with large storm events with heavy rainfall (typically several inches or more). Their initial life stages face a race against rapidly decreasing water levels within the breeding pool. The eggs of spadefoot toads typically hatch into tiny larvae within one to three days of deposition. The tadpoles develop rapidly and within only one to three weeks metamorphose into tiny toadlets. If the pool dries out, the tadpoles dessicate and become a food source for predators.

In Pennsylvania this species has recently been classified as endangered by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. Eastern spadefoot toads are threatened by habitat destruction from development, both industrial and residential. Local farming practices also have the potential to drastically alter the water and soil chemistry in the agricultural fields where they remain buried. The water they breed in is temporary and, therefore, does not always fall within the boundaries of a wetland. Thus, some breeding areas may receive no wetland related protection.

Click above to listen to Aqua-Terra's 2006 recording of Pennsylvania spadefoot toads (with several Fowler's toads)

Here’s a photographic example of the rapidly decreasing water levels within a spadefoot breeding pool in Pennsylvania. This first image is dated July 15th, when the tadpoles had developed hind legs.

This image of a dried pool is dated July 18th. Metamorphosed toadlets were observed within the pool basin, so a successful breeding cycle was completed.


Eastern spadefoot toadlet

An eastern spadefoot skeleton photographed