European spadefoot toad

European spadefoot toads
Temporal range: Late Jurassic – Recent[1]
Pelobates fuscus fuscus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Suborder: Mesobatrachia
Superfamily: Pelobatoidea
Family: Pelobatidae
Bonaparte, 1850
Genus: Pelobates
Wagler, 1830

Pelobates cultripes
Pelobates fuscus
Pelobates syriacus
Pelobates varaldii

The distribution of extant pelobatids (in black).

The European spadefoot toads are a family of frogs, the Pelobatidae, with only one extant genus Pelobates, containing four species. They are native to Europe, the Mediterranean, northwestern Africa, and western Asia.


The European spadefoot toads are small- to large-sized frogs, up to 10 cm (3.9 in) in length, which are often inconspicuously coloured. They are predominantly fossorial (burrowing) frogs, which burrow in sandy soils. They have hardened protrusions on their feet to aid in digging, which is the source of the common name. They emerge from the ground during periods of rain and breed in pools, which are usually temporary.[2]

All of the species from this family have free-living, aquatic tadpoles. The eggs are laid in temporary ponds that may quickly evaporate, so the tadpole stage is unusually brief, with rapid development to the adult form in as little as two weeks. To further speed their growth, some of the tadpoles are cannibalistic, eating their brood-mates to increase their supply of protein.[2]


The seven species of American spadefoot toads (genera Scaphiopus and Spea) were previously also included into the Pelobatidae family, but are now generally regarded as the separate family Scaphiopodidae.

Family Pelobatidae


The earliest fossil genus of pelobatids, Elkobatrachus, was described in 2006.[4]

In the Jurassic Morrison Formation, pelobatids are represented by the illium of an unnamed but indeterminate species.[1] This illium is larger than that of Enneabatrachus, a contemporary discoglossid species.[1] A specimen has been recovered from Quarry 9 of Como Bluff in Wyoming.[1] Pelobatids are present in stratigraphic zones 5 and 6 of the formation.[5]


  1. 1 2 3 4 Foster, J. (2007). "Pelobatidae indet." Jurassic West: The Dinosaurs of the Morrison Formation and Their World. Indiana University Press. p. 137.
  2. 1 2 Zweifel, Richard G. (1998). Cogger, H.G.; Zweifel, R.G., eds. Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. San Diego: Academic Press. p. 88. ISBN 0-12-178560-2.
  3. Tron, François (2005). "The Eastern spadefoot Toad (Pelobates syriacus): A new amphibian species for Lebanon". Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 August 2014.
  4. Henrici, Amy C.; Haynes, Simon R. (2006). "Elkobatrachus brocki, a new Pelobatid (Amphibia: Anura) from the Eocene Elko Formation of Nevada". Annals of Carnegie Museum. 75 (1): 11–35. doi:10.2992/0097-4463(2006)75[11:ebanpa];2.
  5. Foster, J. (2007). "Appendix." Jurassic West: The Dinosaurs of the Morrison Formation and Their World. Indiana University Press. pp. 327-329.


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