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What is a Great Basin Spadefoot Toad

What is a Great Basin Spadefoot Toad

The Great Basin Spadefoot Toad (Spea intermontana) is a unique and fascinating amphibian species found in North America. With its intriguing physical adaptations and a resilient lifestyle, this toad is a remarkable example of how animals can thrive in challenging environments. In this article, we’ll explore the Great Basin Spadefoot Toad’s taxonomy, physical description, diet, reproduction, habitat, lifespan, and discuss its significance in the ecosystem.

What is a Great Basin Spadefoot Toad

Great Basin Spadefoot Toad Overview

The Great Basin Spadefoot Toad is a nocturnal amphibian known for its distinctive spade-like structures on its hind legs. These structures help the toad burrow into the ground, allowing it to escape predators and survive in its arid habitat. Its ability to adapt to a wide range of temperatures and environments has made it a key species in understanding the resilience of life in the Great Basin region.


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Amphibia
  • Order: Anura
  • Family: Scaphiopodidae
  • Genus: Spea
  • Species: Spea intermontana

What is a Great Basin Spadefoot Toad (Spea intermontana)

Size and Body Description

Great Basin Spadefoot Toads typically measure around 1.5 to 2.5 inches (3.8 to 6.4 cm) in length. They have a stout body with smooth, dry skin that ranges in color from greenish-gray to brown, which helps them blend into their surroundings. Their large, bulging eyes have vertically-oriented pupils, and they have a distinctive “cat-eye” appearance. The toad’s most notable feature is the black, spade-like structure on each hind foot, which is used for digging.



Great Basin Spadefoot Toads are carnivorous and primarily feed on invertebrates, such as insects, spiders, and worms. Their diet can vary depending on the availability of prey in their habitat. They are opportunistic feeders and will consume almost any small invertebrate they can catch and swallow.

How Long do Great Basin Spadefoot Toads Live

The average lifespan of a Great Basin Spadefoot Toad in the wild is approximately 8-10 years. However, their survival rate can vary significantly depending on factors such as predation, disease, and availability of suitable habitat and food sources.

Where Found

The Great Basin Spadefoot Toad is native to the western United States, and predominantly found in the Great Basin region, which includes parts of Nevada, Utah, Oregon, Idaho, and California. They inhabit arid and semiarid environments such as sagebrush deserts, grasslands, and shrublands, where they spend most of their time burrowed underground to avoid desiccation.


Breeding season for the Great Basin Spadefoot Toad occurs during the spring and early summer, usually after heavy rainfall. Males call to attract females, and the mating process involves the male grasping the female in a behavior known as amplexus. The female then lays her eggs in shallow, temporary pools of water, where the male fertilizes them externally. The eggs hatch within a few days, and the tadpoles develop rapidly, completing metamorphosis within 4-8 weeks to avoid the pools drying up.