Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

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NACairns
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Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by NACairns » June 6th, 2016, 9:35 pm

It's that time of year up here in the northern Great Plains, the spadefoots (Spea bombifrons) were out and about for a few days last week. These are always a great group when ever you get lucky enough to stumble across them and I'm keen to know more. With that, I'd love to hear/see more of what you have found in your neck of the woods and hear any local knowledge you're willing to share. I'd love to hear about North American spadefoots but would be just as interested to hear about other arid land burrowing frogs from around the world. So, if you've got Spea or Scaphiopus great, same goes for Pelobates, Breviceps, Odontophrynus, Sphaerotheca, Notaden or any others you see fit.

I'll get the ball rolling:
The only spadefoot that occurs in south western Saskatchewan, Canada is Spea bombifrons. It is a medium size frog (max SUL 64 mm). In this area if breeds only after the major storms in late May early June when night time temps are greater than 10 C. In this area I've observed them calling from bison/cattle wallows, ditches, dugouts and depressions in fields/rangeland. Breeding only lasts a few days (longest I can confirm hearing calling males was 3 days in a row). Smaller intermittent choruses occur during major rain events through June and July but don't seem to produce tadpoles but I'm unsure if this is due to lack of breeding or failure of eggs and larvae do to competition/predation from older cohorts. There is inducible polymorphism in this species with a carnivorous morph and omnivorous morph but I have never seen the overdeveloped jaws of the true carnivore in this area though have observed cannibalism regularly. The only other vertebrate present in the breeding pools are Pseudacris maculata (boreal chorus frog) which are also eaten by bombi tadpoles. I've observed terrestrial metamorphs approximately five weeks after the first choruses, but despite all being roughly the same size legless tadpoles were present until the end of July.
Please forgive the reused photos
ImageSpea bombifrons by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImagePseudacris maculata and Spea bombifrons by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageSpea bombifrons by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageSpea bombifrons by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageSpea bombifrons "spade" by N Cairns, on Flickr
Gravid female:
ImageSpea bombifrons by N Cairns, on Flickr
Males from the same area:
ImageSpea bombifrons by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageSpea bombifrons by N Cairns, on Flickr

I look forward to any other info/photos folks are willing to share.
Best,
Nick

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Jeroen Speybroeck
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Re: Show me your spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » June 6th, 2016, 11:27 pm

Yeah, we've got spadefeet too!

Apart from the recent split of fuscus, delivering Pelobates vespertinus in the far east of Europe, we have the three traditional species. There's a 5th species in NW Africa, P. varaldii.

Image
Eastern Spadefoot Pelobates syriacus - NW Greece


Image
Western Spadefoot Pelobates cultripes - S Portugal
This one's the only European species with black spades.
Image


Image
Common Spadefoot Pelobates fuscus - the Netherlands
Only fuscus and syriacus show (limited) range overlap, e.g. in Romania and Bulgaria, where they may co-occur.


Let me add a few US spades as well.

Image
Eastern Spadefoot Toad Scaphiopus holbrookii - Florida


Image
Couch's spadefoot Scaphiopus couchii - Arizona


Image
Mexican spadefoot Spea multiplicata - Arizona

NACairns
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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by NACairns » June 7th, 2016, 8:33 pm

Outstanding, thanks Jeroen. Pelobates looks like an interesting genus, for those of us who don't have your book yet what is their ecology like? I never think of places like the Netherlands when I think of fossorial frogs.

Here are a few more observations:

Here's a juvenile Hurter's spadefoot from east Texas. We found 4 of them in a 300 m of hardwood bottoms surrounded by Piney woods after a day of heavy rain. Wish I had taken more time to get some better photos.
ImageScaphiopus hurterii by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageScaphiopus hurterii by N Cairns, on Flickr
The sickle shaped spade of Scaphiopus
ImageScaphiopus hurterii by N Cairns, on Flickr

The monsoons of south eastern Arizona was the first place where I saw spadefoots I was lucky enough to see Spea bombifrons, Spea multiplicata and hybrids along with Scaphiopus couchii. Unfortunately most of those slides have gone walkabout so all I've got are these:
ImageScaphiopus couchii by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageScaphiopus couchii by N Cairns, on Flickr

Best,
Nick

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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by daniel » June 9th, 2016, 12:05 pm

Thank you for starting this thread Nick, this is my favorite group of amphibians! Spea hammondii is the only species in my region (coastal southern California).

Image

Image

I have observed this species usually following heavy rains early in the year (January-March), but occasionally before and after a rain event late in the summer and fall. I usually find them within the vicinity of temporary rain pools, as well as perennial and intermittent streams on a few occasions.

Image

Image

The most I have heard chorusing at one time was probably around 40-50 individuals from several breeding pools that were clustered together, the night after the first good rain of the year in late February. I have only observed egg masses and larvae in February, however I have observed small juveniles as late as August.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Lastly, I would like to finish my very modest contribution with some highly recommended reading for any Spea or Scaphiopus fan, or just anyone who likes herps and/or reading!

Image

Cheers!

NACairns
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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by NACairns » June 10th, 2016, 8:55 pm

Thanks for the info Daniel and great shots. I've never seen S. hammondii but it is one I'd love to look for. It's great you got some shots of the eggs. I have to admit I've never read gnomes of the night but I should pick it up one of these days.
Thanks for sharing,
Nick
Here's a few more bombifrons
From Montana
ImageSpea bombifrons by N Cairns, on Flickr
From Kansas
ImageSpea bombifrons by N Cairns, on Flickr

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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by bgorum » June 11th, 2016, 5:54 am

Spadefoot season here in New Mexico starts with the monsoons, so still a month or so away, but here are some older pics.

ImageGorum_150719_3331-Edit by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

Image1011136_580863278632851_1146029138_n by Bill Gorum, on Flickr
Had to throw this one in! This is how my camera often looks after a night of photographing spadefoots.

ImageGorum_140814_4150 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_140801_4018 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_130824_0003 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_130818_0018 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_130803_0574 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_130802_0014_5 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_130727_1399 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_130715_1047 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_130714_1009 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_130714_1007 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_130714_0991 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_130713_0967 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_130709_0879 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_130709_0866 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_130709_0859 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_130709_0853 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_130630_0351 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr
I've tried to photograph their whole natural history from beginning, (I need to work on that more this summer), to end!

ImageGorum_120819_0006 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_110803_4558 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

[ImageGorum_110803_4522 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_100807_2301 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_100723_2285 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

Can't wait for the monsoons to start again!

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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by chrish » June 11th, 2016, 8:53 am

Wow Bill, great photos.

One of the things I love about spadefeet (spadefoots?) is the effort they put into their calls. It really looks like they are trying hard -

Couch's -
Image

Hurter's -
Image



Some of them have magical powers as well. You can spot them because they wear wizard hats (sorry, uncooperative subject on long photo shoot!) -

Image

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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by Antonsrkn » June 11th, 2016, 3:19 pm

Amazing photos all around but Bill I can't get enough of yours! The time and effort you must have put into getting them really shows, a great window into the lives of these amazing critters.

So regrettably, I don't have any photos of spadefoots but I do have some shots of a species with a rather similar lifestyle. Ceratophrys stolzmanni is a small member of the horned frogs (Ceratophrys), this particular species is restricted to the dry almost desert like areas of south western Ecuador and North western Peru and they emerge after heavy rains in the rainy season to breed. I was first there in 2015 and just missed the major breeding event by a little bit, however there were 1000s of little Ceratophrys emerging from the rapidly drying puddles. The adults were largely missing and in the one night I had there I only managed to find 2 as opposed to the 100s or 1000s that my friends reported seeing as little as a week earlier. This species spends the majority of the year buried waiting for the rain and perhaps the adults had already moved back underground?

I planned to return in the early part of 2016 as I was in the area again visiting my partner who does her field research nearby but it was unseasonably dry (El Nino induced perhaps) so I didn't get a chance to see this species again.

The first adult I found was trying to eat a frog as big as it was...
ImageSnack Attack by Anton, on Flickr

ImagePacific Pacman by Anton, on Flickr

Adults may have been tough to come by but these were absolutely everywhere, a pair photographed in a puddle in the middle of the road.
ImageSiblings? by Anton, on Flickr

NACairns
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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by NACairns » June 11th, 2016, 8:47 pm

Wow outstanding photos all round. Bill, those long exposures are beautiful I also really liked the tadpole's surfacing. I only got to see a full monsoon emergence once but it was amazing, hope to do it again one day. Chris, as usual thank you for the multimedia I was hoping you might join in with some calls. I tried to get recordings this year but the chorus was too far onto private land for my little recorder. Hoping to do extensive recording next year for a project I'm working on. Anton those Ceratophrys stolzmanni are so cool, what is the other frog it's trying to eat? Are they particularly good diggers, what is the substrate like? Do you know if they have auditory communication as a tadpole like some other Ceratophrys (see below). I always wondered what the arid land frog communities in these dry areas of South America. Argentina looks like it has some very cool burrowing frogs.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1 ... edMessage=

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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by gbeck » June 12th, 2016, 11:16 pm

I suppose I don't have a lot to add to the conversation, but here are some photos of the Great Basin Spadefoots that we have around here:

ImageGreat Basin Spadefoot (Spea intermontana) by Gavin Beck, on Flickr

ImageGreat Basin Spadefoot Toad (Spea intermontana) by Gavin Beck, on Flickr

ImageGreat Basin Spadefoot's Eye (Spea intermontana) by Gavin Beck, on Flickr

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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by NACairns » June 14th, 2016, 9:12 pm

Great shots Gavin, that eye in particular. I've only ever seen larvae of S. intermontana, hopefully one of these days I'll be in the Great Basin when it rains.
Thanks
Nick

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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by BillMcGighan » June 15th, 2016, 2:28 pm

I was about to give up on the forum, Nick, and I think a few of the old "theme" posts like yours here can breath life into it.

West Texas Couch’s (Scaphiopus couchii)

Image


Image



You’re right Chris, Couch's Spadefoot (Scaphiopus couchii) out do themselves with enthusiasm:


This NM animal really put his heart in it.


Image


Image










Saving Easterns from chlorinated swimming pools in a Florida tropical storm:


Image

Image

NACairns
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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by NACairns » June 16th, 2016, 7:43 pm

I'm glad you enjoy them as much as I do Bill. Man those eyes are outstanding. I'm surprised with all the folks from the east on here how no Scaphiopus holbrookii have been mentioned until now. Thanks for adding the to the pile.
Best,
Nick

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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » June 16th, 2016, 9:52 pm

NACairns wrote:Pelobates looks like an interesting genus, for those of us who don't have your book yet what is their ecology like?
Let's see. They occur in a wide variety of habitats, breeding in both deep, well-vegetated waters (Pelobates fuscus) as well as temporary waterbodies (Pelobates cultripes) or both (e.g. perhaps the most opportunistic species, Pelobates syriacus). Generally, they're confined to areas with loose soil in which they hide by burrowing, moving backwards using their hindlimbs. Usually they're strictly nocturnal, but during (explosive) breeding, they may become active during daytime for a few days. Threat display is rather interesting, inflating the body and producing loud mewing cries.
NACairns wrote:no Scaphiopus holbrookii have been mentioned until now
Not true! ;)

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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by NACairns » June 17th, 2016, 7:52 am

Pardon me Jeroen, I was so enthused by all the cool novel European species that I forgot you added North Americans (still cool). You sure get around.
Thanks for the ecology info, interesting Pelobates fuscus is a pond breeder. Are their tadpoles better competitors than are typically associated with spadefoots or is there limited competition in these areas?
Thanks
Nick

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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » June 18th, 2016, 10:51 am

NACairns wrote:Are their tadpoles better competitors than are typically associated with spadefoots or is there limited competition in these areas?
Not too easy to answer generally, but I can add more generally that their tadpoles get very big, larger than in any other European anuran genus. As such, they represent a seasonally crucial resource for wading birds in certain areas.

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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by Antonsrkn » June 20th, 2016, 5:04 am

NACairns wrote:. Anton those Ceratophrys stolzmanni are so cool, what is the other frog it's trying to eat? Are they particularly good diggers, what is the substrate like? Do you know if they have auditory communication as a tadpole like some other Ceratophrys (see below). I always wondered what the arid land frog communities in these dry areas of South America. Argentina looks like it has some very cool burrowing frogs.
Sorry for the delayed reply, been a busy field season for me! The other frog that the Ceratophrys is trying to eat is a White Lipped Frog (Leptodactylus labrosus). I think they're pretty adept diggers but I base that on what I know of their lifestyle rather than any personal observations, the substrate in the area was rather sandy and I dont remember it being packed too hard. There are things like cacti growing in the area so that should give you an idea of the type of ecosystem. Another area I have visited that is supposed to have them but was too dry when I was there was dry scrub forest, very rocky area but a fair amount of sandy soil as well. Not based on personal observations but a friend told me that the tadpoles do click as well. Yeah, one of my dreams is to go to those arid areas during the yearly rains, the frogs that live there are nothing short of incredible! Check out Leptodactylus laticeps, Ceratophrys cranwelli, Elachistocleis bicolor, Dermatonotus muelleri, and of course Lepidobatrachus llanensis.

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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by NACairns » June 20th, 2016, 9:48 pm

Thanks Jeroen, it's interesting they are that large as it seems time consuming to get large.
Anton, busy is good, hope your field work is going well. Sounds like incredibly cool habitat I guess I have to add it to the list of areas to see. Speaking of lists those are some very cool species, Leptodactylus laticeps is stunning.
Thanks for sharing, both of you.
Nick

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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by ThatFrogGuy » June 21st, 2016, 3:01 pm

Great thread.

I was fortunate enough to get my lifer Eastern spadefoot in Indiana last year. They have a fairly limited range in Indiana and at this site they breed right in the middle and edges of soybean fields.
ImageEastern Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus holbrookii) by Zach Truelock, on Flickr

ImageEastern Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus holbrookii) by Zach Truelock, on Flickr

ImageEastern Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus holbrookii) by Zach Truelock, on Flickr

One of the coolest things of the night was getting to hear their distress call, which is quite humorous.

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Jeroen Speybroeck
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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » June 22nd, 2016, 1:17 am

ThatFrogGuy wrote:One of the coolest things of the night was getting to hear their distress call, which is quite humorous.
This made me browse for comparitive material of Pelobates. Here's how the European counterpart can sound (although it can also be more like a mewing cat).


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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by NACairns » June 24th, 2016, 10:11 pm

Really interesting Jeroen and frog guy, I haven't seen bombifrons do a similar distress call just a quieter squeaky one (attached) but perhaps at next year's chorus. We had a big storm roll through last night which brought up one healthy looking S. bombifrons but no chorusing.
Best,
Nick

ImageSpea bombifrons by N Cairns, on Flickr

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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by krismunk » June 25th, 2016, 1:57 am

I'm late to the party and my pics are crap, but I'm joining in anyway.

We don't get those choruses since our European species don't have vocal sacs. Our local P. fuscus just make a low "tuk tuk... tuk tuk tuk..." call from the bottom of the breeding ponds. Depending on the depth from which they are calling you have to be pretty close for it to even be audible. Couple that with their fossorial and nocturnal lifestyle and their relative rarity (in Denmark, at least) and they are easily our most difficult anuran to find. They are also my favourites.

Image

More common distress behaviour than calling is their emission of a garlicky smell leading to their Danish name løgfrø ("Onion frog"). Their German name translates as "Garlic toad". Another vernacular Danish name translates as "potato troll" due to their preference of the same sort of light soils as those traditionally used for potato farming.

Sadly in Denmark, their numbers have decreased alarmingly due to habitat degradation, as they disappeared from an estimated 98% of knwon localities from 1945-1990. Since 1990, the decline has almost certainly continued, though hardly at the same rate.

As Jeroen wrote they are almost exclusively nocturnal and since I don't have any populations in my immediate neighbourhood I don't get to see them as often as I would like. A spring evening trip to a pristine pond amidst hunting grass snakes, newts, ranids, fawns on the forest floor and lots of interesting inverts is always a season highlight, though.

My #1 highlight of last year's domestic season was seeing them by day for the first time. According to the books, occasional diurnal activity in the breeding season is highly dependent on the weather and one day last spring I just happened to find myself with an hour on hand near a known breeding pond at he right time of year in seemingly perfect conditions. I took the chance and got lucky, finding one calling male and - even better - an ovipositing couple.

Image

Didn't find the time this year, though... :(

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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » June 25th, 2016, 6:12 am

Thanks for the addition, Kristian, you've mentioned a couple of things I should have!
(Mind you, though, that they do have vocal sacs, just not external ones.)
In Belgium, the species is also extremely rare and endangered (although a new, sizeable population was discovered in 2015). More to the east, however, e.g. in Poland but also E Romania the species is not particularly rare.
krismunk wrote:More common distress behaviour than calling is their emission of a garlicky smell leading to their Danish name løgfrø ("Onion frog"). Their German name translates as "Garlic toad".
Have you ever smelled that yourself? I haven't and don't know of anyone who has.

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Re: Spadefoots/fossorial frogs, please

Post by krismunk » June 25th, 2016, 6:33 am

Jeroen Speybroeck wrote:Thanks for the addition, Kristian, you've mentioned a couple of things I should have!
(Mind you, though, that they do have vocal sacs, just not external ones.)
In Belgium, the species is also extremely rare and endangered (although a new, sizeable population was discovered in 2015). More to the east, however, e.g. in Poland but also E Romania the species is not particularly rare.
krismunk wrote:More common distress behaviour than calling is their emission of a garlicky smell leading to their Danish name løgfrø ("Onion frog"). Their German name translates as "Garlic toad".
Have you ever smelled that yourself? I haven't and don't know of anyone who has.
Yes, I have - once (and I've talked to others who have). The German name referring to garlic is much more befitting than the Danish onion variation.

Thanks for the correction about the vocal sacs. I guess I knew that but somehow it slipped...

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