Eastern Spadefoot - Scaphiopus holbrookii
( Harlan, 1835 )



Eastern Spadefoot Photo
Eastern Spadefoot Location Map
North America
Eastern Spadefoot Photo Eastern Spadefoot Location Map North America

Subspecies: 2
Est. World Population: Unknown


Body Length: 1 ¾ - 2 &frac
Tail Length: n/a
Shoulder Height: ½ - ¾
Weight: 2 - 3 Ounces

Top Speed: Unknown
Jumping Ability: Unknown (Horizontal)

Life Span: Unknown in the Wild
Life Span: Unknown in Captivity

Sexual Maturity: Unknown (Females)
Sexual Maturity: Unknown (Males)
Clutch Size: 200 - 2500
Incubation Period: 2 - 14 days

Scaphiopus holbrooki has a body length between 1 ¾ - 2 ½ in. although the record was found to be 2 7/8 in. The Eastern Spadefoot, as the name implies, has an elongated spade on each hind foot that is extensively webbed. Only one spade is present on each foot and is usually black, horny, and has a spade-like tubercle on the inner surface (Dundee & Rossman, 1989).

The parotid glands are distinct. No boss in between the eyes. On the back of the toad there are two yellowish lines, one that starts at each eye, that run down the back. The formation of the two lines may resemble that of a distorted hourglass. Most of the species display an additional light line on each side of the body. The ground color of the toad is some sort of brown color, although there have been instances of species that are uniformly black or gray (Conant & Collins, 1998).


Areas of sandy, gravelly, or soft, light soils in wooded or unwooded terrain. Burrows underground when inactive. Eggs and larvae develop in temporary pools formed by heavy rains.

Biomes: freshwater lake, freshwater rivers

Southern New England across the southern Great Lakes states to southeastern Missouri, south to the Gulf Coast and southern Florida (absent at higher elevations in Appalachians); eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, eastern Texas, and northwestern Louisiana (subspecies S. h. hurterii) (Conant and Collins 1991).

Life Cycle:
The breeding season of the Eastern Spadefoot begins in March and continues through July, depending on the location of the species. Species that live in warmer regions may breed earlier than those located in a colder area (Oliver, 1955).

The beginning of the breeding season is marked by the occurrence of a torrential rainstorm. These rains produce large areas of surface water (temporary water) that is ideal for this species. Another factor that influences the beginning of the breeding season is when males position themselves near the surface water and begin to sing. The breeding behavior of the Eastern Spadefoot is described as an explosive breeder, meaning that the breeding season is quick, usually because of limiting factors that regulate breeding success (Punoz, 1992).

Once the males have reached the desired shallow pond, they begin to sing and attract receptive females. The number of males may reach up into the hundreds, all calling with their somewhat nasal voice. The voice has been described as an explosive 'waank' or 'waagh" in 3-4 second intervals (Dundee & Rossman, 1989). Others describe the call, which resembles a young crow (Conant & Collins, 1998).

The fertilized mother produces eggs and the number of eggs are around 200 or more. The eggs are laid in strings amid vegetation. Unlike the true toads (Bufo) these eggs lack the encased tubular gelatinous covering. Development of the eggs is rapid because the breeding location has a rapid loss of water and the eggs must develop before the water disappears. The larval period may be as quick as 12 days and the maximum period may be up to 40 days.

The tadpoles of Scaphiopus holbrooki can be identified because spadefoots are the only species having a medial anus and a mouth that is not laterally infolded. The appearance of the tadpoles are flattened (meaning that the posterior end is wider than the anterior), bronze in color, and can reach a length of 28-mm (Dundee & Rossman, 1989).

Food & Hunting:
The Eastern Spadefoot emerges from its burrow at night, usually the nights that are humid to prevent significant water loss. Once at the surface, the toad searches for worms and various arthropods (Dundee & Rossman, 1989). Thus, S. holbrooki would be considered a carnivore.

Active at night during wet warm periods in spring and summer. Active day and night during brief breeding period.

No special status. They are quite a locally abundant species.

Behler, John. Familiar Reptiles and Amphibians of North America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988

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