In this week’s Frog Friday we will introduce the Eastern Spadefoot. The Spadefoot is a medium sized frog ranging in length from 1.75 to 3-inches in length. Each hind foot has a sharp, black “spade” for burrowing into sand or loose soil. The frog remains buried for most of the year and emerges from its burrow only after a heavy rain. During dry periods or drought, the Eastern Spadefoot can bury itself in an underground mud chamber to stay moist.
The Eastern Spadefoot is typically brown, though occasionally yellowish, with wavy dorsal stripes extending from the eye down the back. The throat and breast are white and the belly is tinged with gray. Because of its plump appearance and poison glands similar to toads, the Eastern Spadefoot has often been referred to as the “spadefoot toad”. The species however, differs from true toads in that they have very small parotoid glands, few warts, vertical pupils, and relatively moist skin.
Eastern Spadefoots are found primarily in the sandy or loose soils of the Coastal Plain, but there are scattered records in the Piedmont and Blue Ridge Mountains where appropriate habitat exists. Breeding occurs from early March through spring. The fossorial frog is often referred to as an “explosive breeder” because it only emerges from its underground burrow for a day or two to breed. Breeding occurs in small temporary wetlands that are filled after torrential rains and dry within a couple of weeks. Females deposit between 2,000 and 5,000 eggs which can hatch within 1 day.
The call is a nasal descending “grunt” that is repeated every five to ten seconds.