Eastern Spadefoot

Scaphiopus holbrookii


Eastern Spadefoots are small to medium dry-skinned amphibians found in the southeast portion of the state. It is the only representative of Scaphiopodidae in the state. They are 1.75 to 2.25 inches in length with gray or brown skin and bright yellow lines making a “lyre” shape on the dorsum (Peterson et al., 2016). Although often locally abundant, these frogs are nearly only seen after a heavy rain. They’ll then emerge from burrows to breed. 

Adult spadefoot moving out of a breeding wetland, south Mississippi

Identifying Traits

  • Paired bright-yellow lines on back
  • Large yellow eyes
  • Smoother skin than most toads (fewer warts)


Areas with sandy or loose soils to burrow in open or forested land (Peterson et al., 2016)


Males emit a guttural “mehhh” or grunting sound when calling. These frogs can be locally abundant after large rain events. They will take advantage of small temporary water bodies for breeding and laying eggs. The larva develop relatively quickly, transitioning with temporary water. This sort of breeding is often called “explosive breeding.” They spend much of the rest of their lives in hibernation.


Various invertebrates

Adult spadefoot (found surprisingly during a dry spell), Harrison Co. (MS)
Tiny metamorph, recently emerged from a puddle, Harrison Co. (MS)
Adult male with bright “lyre” pattern, Harrison Co. (MS)