Cuban Tree Frog, Osteopilus septentrionalis is native to Cuba, the Bahamas, and the Cayman Islands. This large frog has been introduced in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, many islands of the Lesser Antilles, Florida, and Hawaii. Cuban treefrogs are infamous hitchhikers, and were likely introduced accidentally in cargo shipments from the Caribbean. In Florida, this species has become increasingly common, and is now found throughout the peninsula and in isolated areas of the peninsula. Introduction incidents have also been reported in South Carolina, Georgia, and Texas. This large frog is considered an invasive species, since it negatively affects native frogs, is a nuisance to humans, and can even cause short-circuits of utility switches, causing costly power outages For more information about the problems caused by Cuban Treefrogs, and how you can help to manage these invasive frogs and help native treefrogs, read The Cuban Treefrog in Florida (available online at an educational document by Dr. Steve A. Johnson of the University of Florida/IFAS’s Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation.
The Cuban treefrog ranges in size from 1.5 to 5.5 inches in length. They may be white, gray, tan, green, or brown in color, and can change colors depending on their temperature and environment. Many individuals have darker splotches on the back, and some splotchy banding on the legs. In many individuals, the hidden surfaces of the legs are bright yellow. When the frog leaps to avoid a predator, these bright yellow patches are visible, and may help to confuse the predator.
In Florida, the Cuban treefrog is the largest of all the treefrogs. These large frogs have somewhat bumpy, warty skin, and their toepads are much larger than those of native treefrogs. Also, the skin on their heads is fused to the skull — if you rub the head of an adult frog (between the eyes), the skin doesn’t move. This is a special adaptation that prevents water loss, since there are fewer blood vessels in the “co-ossified” (fused) area. You should be careful when handling Cuban treefrogs, because their skin secretes a toxic mucus that can burn your eyes and nose, cause an allergic reaction (sneezing, runny/stuffy nose), and even trigger asthma.
Like many frogs, Cuban treefrogs are “sexually dimorphic” — that is, females are much larger than males. During the summer breeding season, males can be identified by their darker throats and the dark, callus-like nuptial pads on the thumbs, which help the male to hold onto the female during mating.
The Cuban treefrog is infamous for its huge appetite. Their diet includes almost anything they can overpower, which fits into their mouth, including: insects, other frogs (even frogs of their own species), snakes, lizards, and small mammals.
The Cuban treefrog is considered to be an invasive species across its introduced range, including Florida, consuming native frogs and lizards and posing a threat to the biodiversity of the areas into which it spreads. It has spread as far as southern Georgia as of 2004. It hitchhikes on vehicles or ornamental plants. In some urban and suburban areas, the native treefrogs, such as the Green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) and the Squirrel treefrog (Hyla squirella) are rapidly disappearing, probably due to its presence.
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