Cuban Treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis)
First year: 1931
Established status: Populations are confirmed breeding and apparently have been self-sustaining for 10 or more consecutive years.
Estimated Florida range: 36 counties for at least 10 years, two counties for less than 10 years, and six counties have not reported breeding
Statewide trend: Expanding
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
Photograph by Kevin M. Enge © 2003
|Region||First Year||Extirpated Year||Breeding Status||Notes|
|Northeast||1976||At least 10 years|
|South||1952||At least 10 years|
|Southwest||1976||At least 10 years|
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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.
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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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