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The hind feet are webbed which allows them to swim and effectively find mates during the reproductive season. Spadefoots are effective swimmers, having the ability to swim on the surface and underwater.


The vertical pupil is a major characteristic which distinguishes this species from the true toad family Bufonidae with horizontal pupils. The front feet has pads on the bottom to help cushion the feet during terrestrial travel. The spadefoot’s eyes can be used to help it swallow bugs.  Prey include invertebrates such as worms, millipedes, snails, moths, beetles, and spiders.  There are no published accounts of what spadefoots eat in Virginia.


Parotoid glands, warts, pectoral glands all help protect the frog from predation.  When threatened a Spadefoot will inflate its body and crouch into a ball-like form.  Musky skin secretions may also be released.  Skin secretions are irritating to mucous membranes (just ask Don Mackler).  These animals will also dig backwards into loose soil to escape.  Despite its many defenses metamorphs and adults are eaten by frogs (Southern Toad, Bullfrog), snakes (cottonmouths, hognosed snakes, and northern water snakes), birds (cattle egret, gulls, and starlings), and mammals (opossum and raccoons). Spadefoots have a very unusual trait which can be observed on its chest.  They have paired pectoral glands. These are not used to produce milk. Rather they are granular or poison glands. The chest is colored in a uniform white color. This is termed counter shading and helps aid in survival.


The lower ventral region on these frogs is called a seat patche.  These highly vascularized structures with special muscles help them to absorb water very efficiently.


Male Female
Males have brighter yellow dorsal stripes. Female with light lines on dorsum of back.
Males also have nuptial pads.  These are used to better grip and hold onto a female in amplexus. Sexual maturity in both sexes occurs after 1-2 years. Females do not have nuptial pads.


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