Pelobatidae – European spadefoot toads

Diggin into sandy soil, members of this family spend much of their life in the ground

Although they are often mistaken for toads, spadefoots are, in fact, primitive frogs.

Among the most enigmatic and secretive of common amphibians, spadefoot toads spend the majority of their lives in the seclusion of subterranean burrows. This subterranean lifestyle is a defining trait of spadefoots, setting them apart from many other frogs. These frogs are known for their remarkable digging abilities, often creating their burrows in the soil. However, they are also opportunistic and will readily utilize the burrows of other animals, further emphasizing their adaptability.

Spadefoots have an exceptional adaptation to dry environments. They can reduce the water potential of their body fluids by accumulating urea in their plasma. This adaptation allows them to reabsorb water from soil with a higher water potential, effectively enabling them to thrive in arid conditions. They remain hidden underground for extended periods, conserving energy and water, and only emerge when the environment is conducive, typically during periods of rain.

The behavior of emerging to breed is a pivotal aspect of their life cycle. Spadefoot toads have mastered the art of timing, taking advantage of rain events to venture above ground for breeding purposes.