New Mexico's Pet Resource WINTER 2004


How much do you know about animals? Test your knowledge. Answers at bottom.

Q. What New Mexico animal spends most of its life buried beneath the ground, and smells like popcorn that makes you sneeze?   ANSWER

A. The New Mexico spadefoot toad [Spea multiplicata] spends much of its life beneath the ground, emerging only occasionally at night. When the rain finally arrives in quantities sufficient to produce a puddle, the spadefoot toad comes out and makes eat, drink, and merry, for it must return to earth when the puddle dries. The spadefoot has to do a lot of living very quickly. Eggs may hatch in about two days, and the total time from egg to tadpole has been recorded as little as two weeks (two to four times faster than normal), and the tadpole becomes an adult in an additional two weeks.

The “spade” that gives the toad its name is a horny, dark, sharp-edged tubercle (bump) on the inner surface of the hind foot, and the toad uses it to dig, backwards, into the soft soil. The spadefoot is mostly nocturnal (March through September) and is most common in ground where it can readily dig.

When handled the spadefoot secretes an odor like popcorn or roast peanuts that can cause sneezing.


Source: Desert Animals, Jen Green, Dempsey Parr Books, Bath UK, 2000

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