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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Great Basin Spadefoot - Spea intermontana

(Cope, 1883)
Click on a picture for a larger view



Great Basin Spadefoot California Range Map
Range in California: Red

Dot-locality range map
Listen to this spadefoot:

speaker
A short example


observation link



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Great Basin Spadefoot Great Basin Spadefoot Great Basin Spadefoot
Adult, Inyo County Adult, Inyo County Adult, Inyo County
Great Basin Spadefoot Great Basin Spadefoot Great Basin Spadefoot
Adult, Mono County.
© Ceal Klingler
Adult, Mono County, using nictitating membrane to moisten eyes.
© Ceal Klingler
Spade on hind foot
     
Great Basin Spadefoots From Outside California
Great Basin Spadefoot Great Basin Spadefoot Great Basin Spadefoot
Adult, Franklin county, Washington Adult, Franklin county, Washington Adult, Franklin county, Washington
Great Basin Spadefoot Great Basin Spadefoot Great Basin Spadefoot
Adult, Franklin county, Washington
Underside, Franklin county, Washington Adult, Mineral County, Nevada
     
Breeding Adults, Eggs, Tadpoles, and Metamorphs
Great Basin Spadefoot Great Basin Spadefoot Great Basin Spadefoot
Male calling at night,
Grant County, Washington
Male calling at night,
Grant County, Washington
Male calling at night,
Grant County, Washington
Great Basin Spadefoot Eggs Great Basin Spadefoot Tadpole Great Basin Spadefoot
Two mature eggs attached to a stick which was found submerged in shallow water in an irrigation ditch. Mature tadpole Recently-transformed juvenile

More pictures of developing Great Basin Spadefoot tadpoles.

Habitat
Great Basin Spadefoot Habitat Great Basin Spadefoot Habitat Great Basin Spadefoot Habitat
Habitat, dry wash, Deep Springs Valley, Inyo County (early June 2003)

One night in early July of 1999, this dry desert wash was full of water from recent rains and Great Basin Spadefoots were calling from the water and moving about on the valley floor.
Habitat, Inyo County Breeding pond,
Grant County, Washington
     
Short Videos
Great Basin Spadefoot Great Basin Spadefoot Great Basin Spadefoot
One night while searching for spadefoot choruses to record, we discovered a spadefoot  crossing a gravel road. After we picked it up and moved it to the sand for photographs, it began to slowly bury itself. It took about 5 minutes to completely bury itself, but that has been cut down to about a minute here. Male spadefoots call at night from a shallow stagnant pool in central Washington.
(Short Version)
Male spadefoots call at night from a shallow stagnant pool in central Washington.
(Long Version)
  Great Basin Spadefoot  
  As they sat around their campsite in the Nevada desert, a group of herpetology students suddenly saw this spadefoot dig itself out of the sand. Maybe the vibrations on the ground from the people moving about felt like a sudden heavy rain and stimulated it to emerge. This short movie shows the spadefoot digging back into the sandy soil and burying itself. © Julie Nelson  
   
Description
 
Size
Adults are 1.5 - 2.5 inches long from snout to vent (3.8 - 6.3 cm).

Appearance
A small stout-bodied toad with short legs and warty skin.
There is a glandular bump between the eyes and a dark spot on each eyelid.
A glossy black spade shaped like a wedge is present on each hind foot.
Parotoid glands are not present.
Color and Pattern
Gray-green to olive above, with light stripes on the sides on the back,
and browinish or reddish spots at the tips of skin tubercles.
Whitish below.
Eyes are gold with vertical pupils.
Larvae (Tadpoles)
Tadpoles are dark brown - black above, golden below, with the eyes set in from the margin of the head, and grow up to 2.75 inches long (7 cm.)

Life History and Behavior
Activity
Nocturnal.  Juveniles may feed during the day.
Almost completely terrestrial, entering water only to breed.
Spends 7 - 8 months of its life buried underground in deep burrows during the winter cold and in shallow burrows curing summer dry periods.
Spades on hind feet assist in digging burrows in the soil.
M ammal burrows may be used also for refuge.

Great Basin Spadefoots are active on the surface at night after rains or during periods of agricultural irrigation.
Defense
Noxious skin secretions probaby repulse predators, and can cause burning and allergic-type reactions in humans.
Territoriality
There is little evidence of territorial behavior.
Longevity
Unknown. Tinsley and Tocque (1995) estimated that females live about 13 years and males about 11 years in the wild.
Voice  (Listen)
Calls are made at night.
The call is a short 1-3 note duck-like snoring sound, which has been compared to the sound of a flock of ducks slowed down.
Diet and Feeding
Diet consists of a wide variety of invertebrates, much of which is ants.
Breeding
Reproduction is aquatic.
Fertilization is external, with the male grasping the back of the female and releasing sperm as the female lays her eggs.

The reproductive cycle is similar to that of most North American Frogs and Toads. Mature adults come into breeding condition and the males call to advertise their fitness to competing males and to females. Males and females pair up in amplexus in the water where the female lays her eggs as the male fertilizes them externally. The eggs hatch into tadpoles which feed in the water and eventually grow four legs, lose their tails and emerge onto land where they disperse into the surrounding territory.

Males probably become reproductively mature the first or second year after metamorphosis, and females in the second year.

Breeding takes place spring through summer (mostly April through July) depending on the location, in permanent and temporary pools, lakeshores, ponds, stock tanks, at the edges of agricultural fields, and irrigation ditches. East of the Sierra Nevada, where there is little rainfall or snowmelt to create temporary pools, breeding occurs in overflow pools of permanent streams and in springs.

Adults move from winter refuges to breeding sites when temperatures warm up, typically beginning in April, and it has been estimated they can travel as far as 5 km.

Rainfall can stimulate breeding, but it is not always necessary. Irrigation waters can stimulate breeding also.

Breeding does not necessarily occur at the same time each year at a location.
Breeding pools must remain filled for at least 40 days in order for larvae to successfully transform.
Eggs
Females lay anywhere from 300 to 1000 eggs in small grape to plum-sized clusters of 20 - 40 eggs, which are attatched to floating sticks and underwater vegetation.

Eggs hatch after 2 - 4 days.
Tadpoles and Young
Tadpoles transform in about 47 days, ranging from 36 - 60 days.

Transformed juveniles move onto land temporarily before their tail has been fully absorbed.
Once metamorphosis is complete, they remain at the breeding site for a few days to several weeks before they travel away from the site.

Habitat
Inhabits arid regions of sagebrush flats, bunch grass prairie, arid shrublands, and open forests with sandy soil.

Geographical Range
In California this spadefoot is found in the Great Basin region east of the Sierras from the northern Owens Valley, north through the northeast corner of the state.

The species is found to the north of California, east of the Cascades mountains, through Oregon and Washington, into southern British Columbia, and east of California through southern Idaho and Wyoming, Utah, northeast Colorado, most of Nevada, and northwest Arizona.
Elevational Range
Up to 9,200 ft. (2800 m).

Notes on Taxonomy
Before being assigned to the genus Spea, this spadefoot was known as Scaphiopus intermontana.

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
While Great Basin Spadefoots are extirpated in areas where agriculture and urbanization have destroyed their habitat, they have also colonized new areas where artificial water sources create new breeding sites.
Taxonomy
Family Pelobatidae Spadefoot Toads and Relatives Cope, 1865
Genus Spea Western Spadefoots Cope, 1866
Species intermontana Great Basin Spadefoot

(Cope, 1883)
Original Description
(Cope, 1883) - Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, Vol. 35, p. 15

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Spea - speos - Greek for cave, cavern
intermontana -
Latin - inter between, montis mountain, and -anus belonging to - refers to the Great Basin locality

from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

Alternate Names
Scaphiopus intermontana - Great Basin Spadefoot

Related or Similar California Frogs
Scaphiopus couchii
Spea hammondii


More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

AmphibiaWeb

Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M.  Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.

Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.

Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Degenhardt, William G., Charles W. Painter, & Andrew H. Price. Amphibians and Reptiles of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, 1996.

Williamson, Michael A., Paul W. Hyder, & John S. Applegarth. Snakes, Lizards, Turtles, Frogs, Toads & Salamanders of New Mexico. Sunstone Press, 1994.

Corkran, Charlotte & Chris Thoms. Amphibians of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Lone Pine Publishing, 1996.

Jones, Lawrence L. C. , William P. Leonard, Deanna H. Olson, editors. Amphibians of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle Audubon Society, 2005.

Leonard et. al. Amphibians of Washington and Oregon. Seattle Audubon Society, 1993.

Nussbaum, R. A., E. D. Brodie Jr., and R. M. Storm. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. Moscow, Idaho: University Press of Idaho, 1983.

Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Amphibians of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.

Elliott, Lang, Carl Gerhardt, and Carlos Davidson. Frogs and Toads of North America, a Comprehensive Guide to their Identification, Behavior, and Calls. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009.

Lannoo, Michael (Editor). Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species. University of California Press, June 2005.

Wright, Albert Hazen and Anna Wright. Handbook of Frogs and Toads of the United States and Canada. Cornell University Press, 1949.


Davidson, Carlos. Booklet to the CD Frog and Toad Calls of the Pacific Coast - Vanishing Voices. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, 1995.
Conservation Status

The following status listings come from the Special Animals List and the Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


This Spadefoot is not included on the Special Animals List, meaning there are no significant conservation concerns for it in California according to the California Department of Fish and Game.


Organization
Status Listing
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA)
California Endangered Species Act (CESA)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Bureau of Land Management
USDA Forest Service
 

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