Natural History

Spadefoot Toad

posted: 06/03/13
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Spadefoot Toad | Photo Caption: Excerpted from North America: A World in One Continent by Huw Cordey

Spadefoot toads are burrowing frogs that have large spade-like feet they use to dig tunnels under the sand, where they spend more of their lives in a dormant state that is similar to hibernation. But as soon as a rainstorm approaches, they spring into action the sound of thunder and the vibration of the raindrops hitting the ground are believed to be the cue that stirs the spadefoots into action.

They emerge from underground and travel towards large rain puddles. Here, males will attempt to attract the females with loud calls, competing with one another. At times, they are so desperate to reproduce that occasionally they will seize another male or a frog from a different species. Even when the male has found a female spadefoot, other males will pile on top to create a writhing heap of frogs.

The male will stimulate the female to lay up to two thousand eggs, which submerge and attach themselves to vegetation in the water. The male will then deposit his sperm on them and, within as little as fifteen hours, tiny tadpoles will emerge. To survive, the tadpole must develop into a frog before the desert sun swallows up the rainwater pools. This happens in only twelve to thirteen days, the fastest development rate of any frog or toad. The young frogs will then fill up with food and bury themselves under the sand to await the next downpour.

EXPLORE THE DESERTS: Coyote | California Condor | Mustang | Roadrunner | Harris Hawk | Spadefoot Toad | Fringe-Toed Lizard | Pygmy Rabbit | Cactus Bee | ALL NORTH AMERICAN ANIMALS

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