Pelobates syriacus (Boettger 1889) Syrian Spadefoot Toad
Hebrew name: חפרית מצויה, haparit metzuya
Global Threat: NE – Not Evaluated
Regional Threat: CR (A1c2c,E) – Critically Endangered
Distribution area: From the Ashdod line northwards. The subspecies found in Israel is P. s. syriacus. Israel is the southernmost limit of the species’ distribution (Gafny and Gasith 1987).
Historic distribution: The species type was described from Israel about 100 years ago (Haifa area, Boettger 1889). In the 1940s it was found south down to the Gaza area (Mendelssohn & Steinitz 1944). The southern boundary of the species distribution area is constantly moving north. Since the mid-1990s spadefoot toads have not been found south of the Holon-Bareqet line (a single tadpole was found at Rogers Pool, south of Ashdod during the winter of 2001).
Typical Habitat: Tadpoles develop in winter pools; adults spend the summer deep in the ground and the winter in shallow vertical burrows near winter pools.
Threat and Disturbance Factors:
1. Habitat destruction.
2. Fidelity to traditional breeding sites.
3. Low ecological plasticity (Shpun et al. 1993).
4. Habitat fragmentation.
Population Size: The adult population is estimated at several hundred. Data from latest surveys put the number of remaining egg deposition sites at 15 to 20 (Gafny & Gasith unpubl., Degani & Kaplan 1999).
Fluctuations in Population Size: The number of active breeding sites has decreased by 80% during the last 10 years, indicating a similar decrease in the number of populations.
Isolation Between Subpopulations: There is no continuity between the Coastal Plain, Galilee and Golan populations.
Necessary Steps for Species Preservation: Protecting existing winter pools from pollution and drainage as a result of changing land use practices. This protection must also extend to the pools’ catchment areas in order to preserve the pool’s filling regime. Excavating artificial winter pools in nature reserves and protected sites.