Scaphiopus couchii - Baird, 1854
Couch's Spadefoot
Other English Common Names: Couch's spadefoot
Synonym(s): Scaphiopus varius ;Spea laticeps
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Scaphiopus couchii Baird, 1854 (TSN 173429)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.105658
Element Code: AAABF01020
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Amphibians - Frogs and Toads
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Amphibia Anura Scaphiopodidae Scaphiopus
Genus Size: C - Small genus (6-20 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Frost, D. R. 1985. Amphibian species of the world. A taxonomic and geographical reference. Allen Press, Inc., and The Association of Systematics Collections, Lawrence, Kansas. v + 732 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B85FRO01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Scaphiopus couchii
Taxonomic Comments: Garcia-Paris et al. (2003) used mtDNA to examine the phylogentic relationships of Pelobatoidea and found that the family Pelobatidae, as previously defined, is not monophyletic (Pelobates is sister to Megophryidae, not to Spea/Scaphiopus). They split the Pelobatidae into two families: Eurasian spadefoot toads (Pelobates), which retain the name Pelobatidae, and North American spadefoot toads (Scaphiopus, Spea), which make up the revived family Scaphiopodidae.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 10Apr2002
Global Status Last Changed: 29Nov2001
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5 (05Nov1996)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Arizona (S5), California (S2), Colorado (S1), New Mexico (S4), Oklahoma (S4), Texas (S5)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Range extends from southeastern California, east-central Arizona (Mulcahy and Setser 2002), southeastern Colorado, and central Oklahoma south to southern Baja California, Nayarit, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, and northern Veracruz in Mexico (Conant and Collins 1991, Stebbins 2003).

Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
Number of Occurrences Comments: Represented by many and/or large occurrences throughout most of the range.

Population Size: 100,000 - 1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but likely exceeds 100,000.

Number of Occurrences with Good Viability/Integrity: Very many (>125)

Overall Threat Impact: Low
Overall Threat Impact Comments: There are no major threats to this species at present.

Short-term Trend: Relatively Stable (<=10% change)

Long-term Trend: Decline of <30% to increase of 25%
Long-term Trend Comments: Likely relatively stable in extent of occurrence, unknown level of decline in population size, area of occurrence, and number/condition of occurrences.

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Very narrow to narrow.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (200,000-2,500,000 square km (about 80,000-1,000,000 square miles)) Range extends from southeastern California, east-central Arizona (Mulcahy and Setser 2002), southeastern Colorado, and central Oklahoma south to southern Baja California, Nayarit, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, and northern Veracruz in Mexico (Conant and Collins 1991, Stebbins 2003).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AZ, CA, CO, NM, OK, TX

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: IUCN, Conservation International, NatureServe, and collaborators, 2004


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CA Imperial (06025), Riverside (06065)
CO Otero (08089), Pueblo (08101)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
11 Chico (11020004)+, Upper Arkansas-Lake Meredith (11020005)+, Purgatoire (11020010)+
15 Imperial Reservoir (15030104)+
18 Southern Mojave (18100100)+, Whitewater River (18100201)+, Salton Sea (18100204)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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General Description: Vertically elliptical pupil (in bright light); single hard, black, sickle-shaped spade on each hind foot; parotoid glands present but indistinct; adult snout-vent length often 6-7 cm, rarely up to 9 cm. Mature male: greenish yellow with scattered dark spots; dark patches on the inner three digits of mature individuals during breeding season; expanded vocal sac large and evenly rounded; breeding call a croaking yeow. Female: greenish yellow; coarse dark mottling of juveniles becomes a finer dark reticulation in adults. Larvae: dorsum usually bronze, dark brown, or dark gray to black (black in preservative); body typically wider in rear than in front; tail fin clear with fine scattered dark dots and lines that are most numerous in dorsal fin; eyes dorsal; intestine visible through skin; jaws serrated, never cusped; lower mandible striated; labial tooth rows usually 4/4, 4/5, or 5/5; oral papillae completely encircle mouth (narrow dorsal gap may be present); no keratinized area on roof of mouth; anus on midline at front end of ventral tail fin; usually not more than 3.5 cm total length. Eggs: black on top, whitish underneath, diameter 1.3-1.6 mm, surrounded by one jelly envelope; deposited as a cluster, cylindrical mass, or string of several to more than 100. Source: Hammerson (1999).
Reproduction Comments: These toads emerge from the ground and breed explosively after heavy rains in spring or summer. Breeding choruses usually last only 1 day. Females produce a clutch of up to several hundred eggs, divided among several clusters. Eggs and larvae develop quickly, and toadlets leave the pools in only about 1-2 weeks, if breeding pools do not dry up sooner than this. A newly laid Couch's spadefoot egg can develop into a tiny land-dwelling toadlet in only 1-2 weeks.
Ecology Comments: Monogenean parasite infection may reduce spadefoot reproduction and/or survival (Tocque 1993).
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Individuals migrate up to several hundred meters between upland habitats and breeding sites.
Palustrine Habitat(s): TEMPORARY POOL
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Cropland/hedgerow, Desert, Forest - Hardwood, Grassland/herbaceous, Savanna, Shrubland/chaparral, Suburban/orchard, Woodland - Hardwood
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic, Burrowing in or using soil
Habitat Comments: Habitat includes arid and semi-arid shrublands, shortgrass plains, mesquite savanna, creosote bush desert, thornforest, cultivated areas, and tropical deciduous forest (Mexico). These toads spend most of their time underground or in rodent burrows, except when rains stimulate activirty and bring them to the surface. Females attach eggs to vegetation in shallow ephemeral water resulting from heavy rains.
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Herbivore
Food Comments: Metamorphosed toads eat various small terrestrial arthropods. Larvae probably eat organic debris, algae, small aquatic invertebrates, and plant tissue.
Adult Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Immature Phenology: Hibernates/aestivates, Nocturnal
Phenology Comments: Almost all feeding and breeding activity occur during and shortly after heavy spring and summer rains. Otherwise, these toads stay buried in the ground.
Colonial Breeder: Y
Length: 6 centimeters
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Spadefoots

Use Class: Not applicable
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals (including larvae or eggs) in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Separation Barriers: Busy major highway, especially at night, such that toads rarely if ever cross successfully; urban development dominated by buildings and pavement; the largest, widest, fast-flowing rivers.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Spadefoots can cross some fairly wide flowing rivers, so only the biggest rivers with strong current should be treated as barriers.

Detailed information on movements of these toads is not available, but opportunistic field observations of various species indicate that they readily move up to at least several hundred meters from breeding sites (G. Hammerson, pers. obs.). The separation distance for unsuitable habitat reflects the nominal minimum value of 1 km. The separation distance for suitable habitat reflects the good vagility of spadefoots, their ability to utilize ephemeral or newly created breeding sites, and the consequent likely low probability that two occupied locations separated by less than several kilometers of suitable habitat would represent truly independent populations over the long term.

Adults tend to exhibit high fidelity to breeding sites. For example, in Florida, inter-pond exchange of adults was minimal and short-distance (130 m; one was 416 m) (Greenberg and Tanner 2005), but recaptures were rare and some dispersals may have been missed. Additionally metamorphs may disperse large distances and probably sometimes eventually breed in distant non-natal pools. In Florida, Greenberg and Tanner (2005) did not track inter-pond movement by Scaphiopus holbrookii metamorphs, but it appeared likely that metamorphs ''rescue'' local populations by breeding-4 or 5 years later-in non-natal ponds as adults.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .5 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Inferred extent distance refers to distance from breeding sites and is likely a conservative value.
Date: 15Apr2005
Author: Hammerson, G.
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 08May2011
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 09Jul2010
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
Help
  • Allen, C. R., S. Demarais, and R. S. Lutz. 1994. Red imported fire ant impact on wildlife: an overview. The Texas Journal of Science 46(1):51-59.

  • Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979. The Audubon Society field guide to North American reptiles and amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 719 pp.

  • Blackburn, L., P. Nanjappa, and M. J. Lannoo. 2001. An Atlas of the Distribution of U.S. Amphibians. Copyright, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, USA.

  • Bragg, A.N. 1965. Gnomes of the night. the spadefoot toads. 127 pp.

  • Conant, R. and J. T. Collins. 1991. A field guide to reptiles and amphibians: eastern and central North America. Third edition. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Massachusetts. 450 pp.

  • DIXON, JAMES R. 1987. AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES OF TEXAS, WITH KEYS, TAXONOMIC SYNOPSES, BIBLIOGRAPHY, AND DISTRIBUTION MAPS. TEXAS A& M UNIV. PRESS, COLLEGE STATION. xii + 434 pp.

  • Degenhardt, W. G., C. W. Painter, and A. H. Price. 1996. Amphibians and reptiles of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

  • Frost, D. R. 1985. Amphibian species of the world. A taxonomic and geographical reference. Allen Press, Inc., and The Association of Systematics Collections, Lawrence, Kansas. v + 732 pp.

  • GARRETT, JUDITH M. AND DAVID G. BARKER. 1987. A FIELD GUIDE TO REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS OF TEXAS. TEXAS MONTHLY PRESS, AUSTIN. xi + 225 pp.

  • GEHLBACH, FREDERICK R. 1991. THE EAST-WEST TRANSITION ZONE OF TERRESTRIAL VERTEBRATES IN CENTRAL TEXAS: A BIOGEOGRAPHICAL ANALYSIS. TEXAS J. SCI. 43(4):415-427.

  • García-París, M., D.R. Buchholtz, and G. Parra-Olea. 2003. Phylogenetic relationships of Pelobatoidea re-examined using mtDNA. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 28:12-23.

  • Hammerson, G. A. 1982. Amphibians and Reptiles in Colorado. Colorado Division of Wildlife, Denver. vii + 131 pp.

  • Hammerson, G. A. 1982b. Amphibians and reptiles in Colorado. Colorado Division of Wildlife, Denver. vii + 131 pp.

  • Hammerson, G. A. 1999. Amphibians and reptiles in Colorado. Second edition. University Press of Colorado, Boulder. xxvi + 484 pp.

  • JORGENSEN, ERIC E. AND STEPHEN DEMARAIS. 1998. HERPETOFAUNA ASSOCIATED WITH ARROYOS AND UPLANDS IN FOOTHILLS OF THE CHIHUAHUAN DESERT. SOUTHWEST. NAT. 43:441-448.

  • Mackessy, S. P. 1997. A survey of the herpetofauna of southeastern Colorado with a focus on the current status of two candidates for protected species status: the Massasauga rattlesnake and the Texas horned lizard. Progress report to the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

  • Mulcahy, D. G., and K. W. Setser. 2002. Geographic distribution: Scaphiopus couchii. Herpetological Review 33:64.

  • NEWMAN, R.A. 1999. BODY SIZE AND DIET OF RECENTLY METAMORPHOSED SPADEFOOT TOADS (SCAPHIOPUS COUCHII). HERPETOLOGICA 55:507-515.

  • NEWMAN, ROBERT A. 1994. EFFECTS OF CHANGING DENSITY AND FOOD LEVEL ON METAMORPHOSIS OF A DESERT AMPHIBIAN, SCAPHIOPUS COUCHII. ECOLOGY 75(4):1085-1096.

  • NEWMAN, ROBERT A. 1994. GENETIC VARIATION FOR PHENOTYPIC PLASTICITY IN THE LARVAL LIFE HISTORY OF SPADEFOOT TOADS (SCAPHIOPUS COUCHII). EVOLUTION 48(6):1773-1785.

  • NEWMAN, ROBERT A. AND ARTHUR E. DUNHAM. 1994. SIZE AT METAMORPHOSIS AND WATER LOSS IN A DESERT ANURAN (SCAPHIOPUS COUCHII). COPEIA 1994(2):372-381.

  • Stebbins, R. C. 1985a. A field guide to western reptiles and amphibians. Second edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. xiv + 336 pp.

  • Stebbins, R.C. 1985b. A Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern North America. Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston, Massachusetts.

  • Tocque, K. 1993. The relationship between parasite burden and host resources in the desert toad (SCAPHIOPUS COUCHII), under natural environmental conditions. J. Anim. Ecol. 62:683-693.

  • Wasserman, A.O. 1970. Scaphiopus couchii. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. 85:1-4.

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