AmphibiaWeb - Pelobatidae


(Translations may not be accurate.)


6 species in 1 genus

Commonly Called Spadefoot Toads

Pelobates cultripes
Photo by Iñigo Martínez-Solano
(Click for family gallery)

This family was revised, to consist entirely of the genus Pelobates, which occurs in western Eurasia and northwestern Africa. Species of this family have striking similarities to the family Scaphiopodae, in which the genera Spea and Scaphiopus occur throughout North America. They are collectively known as the "spadefoot toads" due to the presence of a keratinized "spade" on each hind foot which are used in burrowing. While all spadefoot toads were once thought to be in Pelobatidae, more recent phylogenetic analysis reveal that Pelobates is closer to Mygophryidae than Scaphiopodae.

Pelobatids inhabit arid habitats and are known as explosive breeders due to their seeming to explode out of the ground after the first heavy rain in order to mate. They produce tadpoles that develop rapidly in temporary ponds, even in desert regions. They have short legs and stocky bodies with vertical pupils.

Written by AmphibiaWeb

Notable Family Characteristics

  • Terrestrial, mostly fossorial
  • Inhabits deserts and other arid regions
  • Breeding is highly seasonal, and large numbers surface with rains to breed and lay eggs in temporary water bodies
  • Morphological characters for this group are: 1) sacroccygial (sacrum and urostyle) joint fused; 2) frontoparietal exostosed (with bony growths); 3) metatarsal spade supported by well ossified hallux; 4) palatines absent; 5) pectoral girdle arciferal with distinct sternum and omosternum; 6) astragalus and calcaneum fused only at the ends. Other features are stocky bodies with vertical pupils
  • Distribution limited to western Eurasia and northwestern Africa
Pelobatidae Richness map

Cartography Credit: Zoe Yoo, UC Berkeley
Range maps sources: AmphibiaWeb, UC Berkeley, and IUCN RedList

Relevant Reference

Pough, F. H., R. M. Andrews, M. L. Crump, A. H. Savitzky, K. D. Wells, and M. C. Brandley. 2015. Herpetology. Fourth Edition. Massachusetts: Sinauer.

Vitt, L. J., and J. P. Caldwell. 2013. Herpetology. An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles. Fourth Edition. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Genus Pelobates (6 species)
Pelobates balcanicus no account no photos no sound/video
Pelobates cultripes account photos no sound/video
Pelobates fuscus account photos no sound/video
Pelobates syriacus account photos no sound/video
Pelobates varaldii account photos no sound/video
Pelobates vespertinus no account no photos no sound/video

Citation: AmphibiaWeb: Information on amphibian biology and conservation. [web application]. Berkeley, California: AmphibiaWeb. Available: (Accessed:

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