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Scaphiopus holbrookii

(Eastern Spadefoot Toad)


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A small, froglike toad with vertical pupils. On the back of each hind foot , the Eastern Spadefoot has one black spade. Coloring is variable, often similar to the soil of their habitat . Spends the majority of its time buried, emerging to feed at night or under very moist daytime conditions.

Many people have reported severe allergic reactions to the skin-gland secretions of the spadefoot. For this reason, thorough handwashing is advised after handling .

Common Names

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Click on the language to view common names.

Common Names in English:

eastern spadefoot, Eastern Spadefoot Toad

Common Names in Russian:

Лопатоног Холбрука


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Physical Description

Species Scaphiopus holbrookii

Size: A relatively small toad, ranging in size from 4 - 6 cm (1.75 - 2.25 in). Color: Gray or brown, with two light stripes on its back extending from its eyes to its lower back. Together, these two stripes appear hourglass shaped. Other things to look for: The most obvious characteristic of this toad is its eyes, which have vertical pupils (rather than horizontal ones as in all other Georgia toads) and appear similar to a cat's eyes. As the name suggests, the Eastern Spadefoot Toad has a "spade" on each back foot to help it dig into the ground . Its body is smooth compared to bodies of other toads.

The Eastern Spadefoot is the only spadefoot that is found east of the Mississippi River . This species lacks a boss between the eyes like the Plains Spadefoot and the Hurter's Spadefoot. The color is variable from shades of brown, gray, to almost black. They usually have a light yellow line that forms a crude hourglass shape on their back as seen here.


Found in areas of sandy or loose soil within hardwood and mixed forests and coastal pine forests.

Typically found in a lake at a mean distance from sea level of -10.03 meters (-32.91 feet).[1]

Ecology: 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.[2].

List of Habitats :

[more info]


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The Spadefoot Toad is carnivorous , and is an opportunistic feeder . It eats insects, earthworms, and other small organisms .


This toad lives in sandy, often fairly dry habitats and spends the majority of its time buried in the soil. When heavy rains in the spring and summer soak the soil and form temporary ponds , this triggers the emergence of large numbers of these toads from the ground . Their call is a low-pitched grunt and is often said to resemble that of a crow or a bleating sheep.

Mating and egg-laying take place quickly. Eggs are laid in the shallow, temporary pools ; speed of development is variable and is related to the speed with which the pools shrink and dry up. Transformation from egg to tiny toad can occur within as little as two weeks. When growth and transformation are this rapid, the new adults are much smaller than normal.


Most of the time, this species lives in relatively dry regions underground. They remain underground for very long periods of time and can only be sighted after heavy downpours or during wet periods of the summer months (March to September). In dry weather they use the spades on their hing feet to dig in areas with loose soil. The spadefoot is strictly nocturnal .


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Rana albus (Garman • Rana holbrookii albus (Garman • Rana holbrookii Harlan


Name Status: Accepted Name .

Last scrutiny: 01-Sep-2009

Scaphiopus hurterii formerly was regarded as a subspecies of S. holbrookii, but recent checklists (Crother et al. 2000; Collins and Taggart 2002) have treated it as a distinct species. García-Paris et al. (2003) used mtDNA to examine the phylogentic relationships of Pelobatoidea and found that the family Pelobatidae, as previously defined, is not monophyletic (Pelobates is sister to Megophryidae, not to Spea/Scaphiopus). They separated the Pelobatidae into two families: Eurasian spadefoot toads (Pelobates), which retain the name Pelobatidae; and North American spadefoot toads (Scaphiopus, Spea), which make up the revived family Scaphiopodidae.[2].

Similar Species

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No other species of frog or toad has vertical pupils.

Members of the genus Scaphiopus

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 6 species and subspecies in this genus:

S. couchii (Couch's Spadefoot Toad) · S. couchii couchii (Couch's Spadefoot Toad) · S. holbrookii (Eastern Spadefoot Toad) · S. holbrookii holbrookii (Eastern Spadefoot) · S. holbrookii hurterii (Hurter's Spadefoot) · S. hurterii (Hurters Spadefoot)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal February 29, 2008:



  1. Standard Deviation = 64.830 based on 40 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
  2. Geoffrey Hammerson 2004. Scaphiopus holbrookii. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <>. Downloaded on 04 February 2012. [back]
Last Revised: 1/30/2015