Just after the chill of dusk has settled into the low depressions scattered across the short-grass prairie, a squirming, wiggling thing emerges from the sandy loam. In an awkward exhibition of twists and turns and contortions ...Soon, the bout is over, the withering subsides, the preening is complete, and beneath the vast expanse of a now starlit sky, the full spectacle of the creature is presented to the night. It is an adult Plains Spadefoot ... click here for the full excerpt
Just after the chill of dusk has settled into the low depressions scattered across the short-grass prairie, a squirming, wiggling thing emerges from the sandy loam. In an awkward exhibition of twists and turns and contortions, it wrestles with the debris clinging to its moistened body and a pale skin is unveiled, covered with splashes of grays and browns, subtle infusions of greenish overtones, and dappled with a smattering of orange tinted glandular tubercles. Soon, the bout is over, the withering subsides, the preening is complete, and beneath the vast expanse of a now starlit sky, the full spectacle of the creature is presented to the night. It is an adult Plains Spadefoot.
Suddenly, this male, a two year old and new to the subtleties of breeding etiquette, rotates his body around like the needle of a compass and points toward the source of a distant attraction. "Waaaaa!" Switch thrown, lever pulled, the stimulus has been received and the reflex is now set in motion. He is drawn to the magnet and into the night. His movements are focused and deliberate: a series of hops, a scramble or two, a pause, a listen, a realignment of the target. "Waaaaa!" The chorus is loud now and the aggregation is at hand. "Waaaaa!"
Reaching the tufted grass at the brim of the depression, he miscalculates, loses his balance and tumbles down the short embankment into the water. The result: a plop and a ripple. In an instant, an older, more experienced male leaps from his calling station and latches on, clasping the younger around the waist. A tussle ensues. The subordinate male chirps his protest and is released. The veteran returns to his post; the younger to the sedges.
The veteran calls: "Waaaaa!" In an automated response, the younger, eager to participate, attempts to join the chorus and begins his sonnet: "Waa..." but the veteran pounces and subdues the younger, censuring and extinguishing his call. Although the younger male has joined the ranks of the aggregation, he will be unable to participate in the breeding - unless...×
The photos and identification key below were taken from the Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Wyoming.
You can click on an image to enlarge it and display it in its own frame. You can also click on the video link to show a short video clip. Click here for the Key to the Reptiles of Wyoming.
1a. Adults with tail; larvae with external gills; four legs similar in size: Eastern Tiger Salamander (Video Clip).
1b. Adults without tail; larvae with enclosed gills; rear legs larger than front: Toads, Frogs, and Spadefoots—key 2.
2a. Lacking parotoid gland behind eye; moist skin more or less free from warts and glands; highly aquatic and readily dehydrated when removed from water; generally leap more than hop: Frogs and Spadefoots—key 6.
2b. Parotoid gland behind eye present; skin drier and with warts or glands; more terrestrial and less prone to dehydration; tending to hop more than leap: Toads—key 3.
3a. Without cranial crest; foothills and mountains: Boreal Toad (Video Clip).
3b. With cranial crest; plains and foothills—key 4.
4a. Cranial crest not fused, with 90 degree bend forming pair of opposing L-shaped ridges; plains and foothills east of Continental Divide exclusive of Laramie Basin: Woodhouse's Toad (Video Clip).
4b. Cranial crest fused at snout or along the parallel ridges; plains and basins—key 5.
5a. Cranial crest V-shaped, fused near snout and diverging laterally; plains in eastern third of Wyoming: Great Plains Toad (Video Clip).
5b. Cranial crest of parallel and slightly fused ridges without postorbital margins; high plains in Laramie Basin: Wyoming Toad (Video Clip).
6a. Lacking cutting tubercle on hind feet; pupil not elliptical slits: Frogs—key 8.
6b. Elongated, black cutting tubercle on hind feet; pupil elliptical and slit-like: Spadefoots—key 7.
7a. Boss more bony than glandular; cutting tubercle short and broad; the Big Horn Basin and eastern third of Wyoming: Plains Spadefoot Video Clip).
7b. Boss more glandular; cutting tubercle long and narrow; southwestern Wyoming: Great Basin Spadefoot (Video Clip).
8a. Dorsolateral fold lacking; prominent fold of skin behind eye and above tympanum; tympanum as large as or larger than eye; background uniform without spots or stripes: American Bullfrog (Video Clip).
8b. Dorsolateral fold present or not; tympanum generally smaller than eye; background with spots, stripes, or bars—key 9.
9a. Head with eye stripe and/or face mask; dorsal pattern with small spots or blemishes—key 11.
9b. Without eye stripe or face mask; dorsal pattern of large spots or elongated bands—key 10.
10a. Dorsal pattern with large black spots; digits of feet lacking suction pads; SVL of adults generally greater than 2 inches: Northern Leopard Frog (Video Clip).
10b. Elongated bars on dorsal surface; digits of feet with (slightly enlarged) suction pads at tip; maximum SVL less than 1.5 inches: Boreal Chorus Frog (Video Clip).
11a. Dorsal surface with small irregular spots or blemishes; without midline stripe; usually with red pigmentation on legs and feet: Columbia Spotted Frog Video Clip).
11b. Dorsal surface with midline longitudinal white stripe (may be missing in specimens from Big Horn Mountains); lacking reddish pigmentation on legs and feet: Wood Frog (Video Clip).