Desert Spadefoot

Notaden nichollsi Parker 1940

Species Info Card | Updated 1 decade ago

A large round frog with very short legs. The snout is very short with a small downturned mouth. Most are a dull orange, olive-grey or brown upon which there are clusters of raised black tubercles (sometimes tipped with red or yellow) in a longitudinal pattern. The fingers and toes are long and pointed, and the inner metatarsal tubercle is shovel-shaped and unpigmented. Males to 5.8 cm; females to 6.5 cm SVL.

Breeding Biology

Breeds in temporarily flooded areas of clay or sandy soils. The spawn is a large, shapeless clump of over 1000 eggs. Tadpoles have three upper and three lower tooth rows. Development is believed to be very rapid - less than 1 month to metamorphosis.


Open country with spase vegetation cover. This burrowing species is active on the surface at night even under hot dry conditions. They are known to burrow over 1 m deep when inactive. Often found near termite mounds.


Named after G.E. Nicholls who worked on amphibians at UWA in the early 20th century.


Distinguished from the eastern Kimberley's Northern Spadefoot (Notaden melanoscaphus) by the unpigmented inner metatarsal tubercle. When handled, spadefoot frogs will inflate themselves and ooze a yellowy creamy secretion that becomes quite sticky.

Distribution map for Desert Spadefoot

Northern arid zone of WA, excluding the Pilbara and Kimberley regions. Also known from the Carnarvon coast between Shark Bay and the North West Cape. Extends in to arid zone of NT.

Males make a loud 'whoop' while floating in the water. The vocal sac is large and calling males look as though they are filling up with air with each call. Calls can be heard kilometres away.