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Cuban Treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis)

Species Detail

Cuban treefrog

First year: 1931

Extirpated year: 

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


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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