Plains Spadefoot

Plains Spadefoot

Plains Toad, Great Plains Spadefoot, Western Spadefoot.

Spea bombifrons

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The Plains Spadefoot Frog, scientifically known as Spea bombifrons, is a remarkable amphibian found in the Great Plains region of North America. With its unique adaptations and behaviors, this frog has become well-suited to surviving in arid and semi-arid environments. It features a plump body with rough, warty skin and distinctive spade-shaped projections on its hind feet. These frogs are known for their nocturnal habits, spending the day buried underground and emerging at night to feed on insects. During breeding season, they gather in temporary ponds to mate and lay eggs. With their specialized skin glands, they can secrete toxic substances as a defense mechanism against predators.

Plains Spadefoot

Common Name
Plains Spadefoot

Other Names

Plains Toad, Great Plains Spadefoot, Western Spadefoot.

Latin Name

Spea bombifrons




These frogs have a plump body with rough, warty skin that helps them retain moisture. They come in various shades of brown, gray, or olive, often with dark blotches or markings. They have prominent eyes with vertical pupils and a distinctive spade-shaped projection on each hind foot, which they use for digging.


Plains Spadefoot Frogs range in size from 1.5 to 3.5 inches (3.8 to 8.9 cm) in length. Females are typically larger than males.


They inhabit a variety of habitats, including grasslands, prairies, deserts, and sandy areas. They have a preference for areas with loose, sandy or clay soils that are conducive to burrowing.


Plains Spadefoot Frogs are primarily nocturnal, spending their days buried in the ground to escape the heat and dry conditions. They are excellent burrowers and use their specialized hind feet to dig into the soil, creating tunnels where they find refuge and protection. During heavy rains, they emerge from their burrows to breed in temporary ponds or wetlands.


Their diet consists mainly of insects, including ants, beetles, grasshoppers, and other small invertebrates. They are sit-and-wait predators, capturing their prey with their sticky tongues.


Plains Spadefoot Frogs undergo a remarkable lifecycle. After heavy rains, they gather in breeding ponds to mate. Females lay their eggs in the water, and the eggs hatch into tadpoles. These tadpoles develop quickly, undergoing metamorphosis within a few weeks. Once they transition into froglets, they leave the water and begin their terrestrial life.


Plains Spadefoot Frogs produce a distinctive call that sounds like a short, harsh croak or “waaah.” Males typically call from the breeding ponds to attract females during the breeding season.

Defense Mechanisms

When threatened, Plains Spadefoot Frogs can employ various defense mechanisms. They have specialized skin glands that can secrete toxic substances, making them unpalatable to predators. They may also inflate their bodies or emit a high-pitched distress call to deter predators and signal potential danger.

Ecological Importance

Plains Spadefoot Frogs play an essential role in their ecosystems. As predators, they help control insect populations, contributing to the balance of local ecosystems. They are also an important food source for other animals, including birds and snakes.

Conservation Status

The conservation status of Plains Spadefoot Frogs varies across their range. In some areas, they are considered a species of least concern, while in others, habitat loss and degradation pose significant threats to their populations.
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