Nonnatives - Cuban Treefrog

Cuban Treefrog - Osteopilus septentrionalis

Florida's Nonnative Wildlife. Species detail.

First year: 1931

Extirpated year: 

Established status: Populations are confirmed breeding and apparently self-sustaining for 10 or more consecutive years.

Estimated Florida range: 36 counties  At least 10 years, 2 counties  Less than 10 years, 6 counties  Not reported breeding

Statewide trend: Expanding

cubantreefrog
Photograph by Kevin M. Enge © 2003

Threats to natives: Preys upon smaller native treefrogs, such as the squirrel (Hyla squirella) and green (H. cinerea) treefrogs (Austin 1973, Dalrymple 1994), and may reduce their populations via competition and predation (Asthon and Ashton 1988). It also has been recorded eating southern toads (Bufo terrestris) and southern leopard frogs (Rana sphenocephala) (Meshaka 1994b). Its prolific breeding habits may interfere with the breeding of adults or ecology of tadpoles of native anurans. A male Cuban treefrog has been observed amplexing a female southern leopard frog, but the effects of reproductive interference are probably minimal (Smith 2004). Noxious skin secretions may make it unpalatable to many predaceous birds and snakes, such as the American crow and black racer (Coluber constrictor) (Dalrymple 1994). However, it has been recorded being preyed upon by racers, yellow rat snakes (Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata) (Meshaka and Ferster 1995), ribbon snakes (Thamnophis sauritus) (Love 1995), and barred owls (Meshaka 1996a). Alligators, raccoons, opossums, and birds of prey may eat these treefrogs (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999).

Species Account: The Cuban treefrog is a large, primarily mesophytic forest-dwelling hylid of the West Indies. It was first recorded in Miami in 1952 (Schwartz 1952) but had dispersed northward to central Florida by the mid-1970s (Meshaka 1996). This West Indian species is easily dispersed in plant shipments, especially in the leaf axils of cultivated palm trees (Meshaka 1996). Females may attain a body length of 12.7 cm (5 in), but males are smaller and shorter lived. This species has much larger toepads and a wartier skin than our native treefrog species. The ground color may be tan, gray, brown, or olive green, and there may or may not be a pattern present. Cuban treefrogs are established through much of southern Florida, and although large numbers are killed during freezes at the northern extent of their range, populations are apparently able to rebound quickly. They are probably most abundant in human-altered habitats, such as gardens, nurseries, and citrus groves, but they also occur in natural wooded habitats. They are highly arboreal but can sometimes be found on the ground. They are primarily nocturnal and are commonly found on walls and windows feeding on insects attracted to lights. During the daytime or during dry weather they seek shelter in moist areas, such as open pipes, the leaf axils of banana and palm trees, tree cavities, cellars, and cisterns. They are not very wary, but when startled can make tremendous leaps. They breed in warm weather in canals, small ponds, and even cisterns. Despite of the toxicity of their skin secretions, which can irritate the mucous membranes of humans, a variety of birds, mammals, and snakes can eat them (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999). Besides eating invertebrates, this species will prey on smaller frogs (Allen and Neill 1953, Austin 1973) and other vertebrates.

Habitats: Lake, Estuarine community, Exotic plant community, Low density suburban development, areas peripheral to core urban areas, and small towns, Agricultural habitat, Rockland Hammock, Mesic Hammocks, Lowland forest or swamp

 
Region First Year Extirpated Year Breeding status Notes
NORTHEAST 1976

 

At least 10 years

 

SOUTHWEST 1976

 

At least 10 years
SOUTH 1952

 

At least 10 years

 


County First Year Extirpated Year Breeding status Notes
ALACHUA 2002

 

Not reported breeding Gainesville (Krysko et al., in press)
BROWARD 1959

 

At least 10 years Dania (King 1960)
CHARLOTTE 1976

 

At least 10 years (Stevenson 1976, Layne et al. 1977)
CITRUS 1991-1994

 

At least 10 years (Meshaka 1996)
CLAY 1991-1994

 

Not reported breeding (Meshaka 1996)
COLLIER 1970

 

At least 10 years (Duellman and Crombie 1977)
COLUMBIA 2001

 

Not reported breeding O'Leno State Park (Krysko et al., in press)
DADE 1951

 

At least 10 years Breeding in Miami (Schwartz 1952)
DE SOTO 1975

 

At least 10 years (Stevenson 1976)
DUVAL 2002

 

Not reported breeding Jacksonville (Townsend and Krysko 2003)
GLADES 1991

 

At least 10 years (Conant and Collins 1991)
HARDEE 1991-1994

 

At least 10 years (Meshaka 1996)
HENDRY 1991-1994

 

At least 10 years (Meshaka 1996)
HERNANDO 1995

 

Less than 10 years Brooksville (Townsend et al. 2002)
HIGHLANDS 1976

 

At least 10 years (Stevenson 1976)
INDIAN RIVER 1976

 

At least 10 years Vero Beach (Myers 1977)
LEE 1983?

 

At least 10 years Ft. Myers, Ft. Myers Beach, and Sanibel (Wilson and Porras 1983)
LEON 1976

 

Not reported breeding (Ashton 1976); this record may be incorrect, and no voucher exists (Johnson 2004)
LEVY 2003

 

Less than 10 years Cedar Key (P. E. Moler, FFWCC, Gainesville, personal communication)
MANATEE 1991-1994

 

At least 10 years (Meshaka 1996)
MARTIN 1991-1994

 

At least 10 years (Meshaka 1996)
MONROE 1928

 

At least 10 years Common in Key West (Barbour 1931)
OKEECHOBEE 1991-1994

 

At least 10 years (Meshaka 1996)
ORANGE 1976

 

At least 10 years Apopka (Conant and Collins 1991)
OSCEOLA 1991-1994

 

At least 10 years (Meshaka 1996)
PALM BEACH 1972

 

At least 10 years Boca Raton (Austin 1973)
PINELLAS 1993

 

At least 10 years Largo (Somma and Crawford 1993)
POLK ?

 

At least 10 years FLMNH specimen; Central Florida Zoo (Welker 2004)
SAINT JOHNS 1999

 

Not reported breeding Anastasia Island (Krysko and King 1999)
SAINT LUCIE 1977?

 

At least 10 years Port St. Lucie (Myers 1977)
SARASOTA 1976

 

At least 10 years (Ashton 1976)
SEMINOLE ?

 

At least 10 years FLMNH specimen
VOLUSIA 1996

 

Less than 10 years New Smyrna Beach (Campbell 1999)
WASHINGTON 1976

 

Not reported breeding (Ashton 1976); this record may be incorrect, and no voucher exists (Johnson 2004)
GADSDEN 2004

 

Not reported breeding Havana (Johnson 2004)
MARION 2003

 

Not reported breeding Ocala (Johnston 2004)

References

Allen, E. R., and W. T. Neill. 1953. The treefrog Hyla septentrionalis in Florida. Copeia 1953:127-128.

Ashton, R. E., Jr. 1976. County records of reptiles and amphibians in Florida. Florida State Museum, Herpetology Newsletter 1(1):1-13.

Ashton, R. E., Jr., and P. S. Ashton. 1988. Handbook of reptiles and amphibians of Florida. Part three: the amphibians. Windward, Miami, Florida, USA. 191pp.

Austin, D. F. 1973. Range expansion of the Cuban treefrog in Florida. Florida Naturalist 46(4):28.

Barbour, T. 1931. Another introduced frog in North America. Copeia 1931:140.

Bartlett, R. D., and P. P. Bartlett. 1999. A field guide to Florida reptiles and amphibians. Gulf Publishing Company, Houston, Texas. 278pp.

Campbell, R. 1999. Osteopilus septentrionalis (Cuban treefrog). Herpetological Review 30:50-51.

Conant, R., and J. T. Collins. 1991. A field guide to amphibians and reptiles of eastern and central North America. Third edition. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. 450pp.

Duellman, W. E., and R. I. Crombie. 1970. Hyla septentrionalis Dumeril and Bibron. Cuban treefrog. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles 92.1-4.

Johnson, S. A. 2004. Geographic distribution: Osteopilus septentrionalis (Cuban treefrog). Herpetological Review 35:405.

Johnston, G. R. 2004. Geographic distribution: Osteopilus septentrionalis (Cuban treefrog). Herpetological Review 35:184.

King, F. W. 1960. New populations of West Indian reptiles and amphibians in southeastern Florida. Quarterly Journal of the Florida Academy of Sciences 23:71-73.

Krysko, K. L., and F. W. King. 1999. Osteopilus septentrionalis (Cuban treefrog). Herpetological Review 30:230-231.

Krysko, K. L., K. M. Enge, J. H. Townsend, E. M. Langan, S. A. Johnson, and T. S. Campell. In Press. New county records of amphibians and reptiles from Florida. Herpetological Review.

Layne, J. N., J. A. Stallcup, G. E. Woolfenden, M. N. McCauley, and D. J. Worley. 1977. Fish and wildlife inventory of the seven-county region included in the Central Florida Phosphate Industry Areawide Environmental Impact Study. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Technical Information Services PB-278 456, Volume 1. 643pp.

Love, W. B. 1995. Osteopilus septentrionalis (Cuban treefrog). Predation. Herpetological Review 26:201-202.

Meshaka, W. E., Jr. 1994. Ecological correlates of successful colonization in the life history of the Cuban treefrog, Osteopilus septentrionalis (Anura: Hylidae). Dissertation, Florida International University, Miami, Florida, USA. 140pp.

Meshaka, W. E., Jr. 1996. Vagility and the Florida distribution of the Cuban treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis). Herpetological Review 27:37-40.

Meshaka, W. E., Jr. 1996a. Theft or cooperative foraging in the barred owl? Florida Field Naturalist 24:15.

Meshaka, W. E., Jr., and B. Ferster. 1995. Two species of snakes prey on Cuban treefrogs in southern Florida. Florida Field Naturalist 23:97-98.

Myers, S. 1977. Osteopilus septentrionalis (Cuban treefrog). Herpetological Review 8:38.

Schwartz, A. 1952. Hyla septentrionalis Dumeril and Bibron on the Florida mainland. Copeia 1952:117-118.

Smith, K. G. 2004. Osteopilus septentrionalis (Cuban treefrog). Reproductive behavior. Herpetological Review 35:374-375.

Somma, L. A., and D. M. Crawford. 1993. Osteopilus septentrionalis (Cuban treefrog). Herpetological Review 24:153.

Stevenson, H. M. 1976. Vertebrates of Florida. University Presses of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA. 607pp.

Welker, M. E. 2004. Geographic distribution: Osteopilus septentrionalis (Cuban treefrog). Herpetological Review 35:283.

Wilson, L. D., and L. Porras. 1983. The ecological impact of man on the south Florida herpetofauna. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History, Special Publication No. 9. 89pp.

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