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Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

Cuban treefrogs are relatively large frogs in the family Hylidae. They have very large toe pads which are sometimes as large as their tympanum. There is no webbing between the toes on the front legs; however, the rear toes are slightly webbed. Their color is quite variable. They are usually gray to gray green but range to tan brown. While these frogs have irises that are parallel to the ground when sitting, they do not have a stripe running through or below their eyes, as some tree frogs do. They have a distinct tarsal fold extending the full length of the tarsus. Juvenile Cuban tree frogs can be difficult to identify (Duellman and Crombie 1970; Ashton and Ashton 1988; Carmichael and Williams 1991; Conant and Collins 1991). Tadpoles have a rounded body, and are black-colored on their dorsal side. The fleshy part of the wide-finned tail is gray-brown, and the fin has scattered dark flecking on it (Ashton and Ashton 1988).

A Spanish-language species account can be found at the website of Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio).

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The Cuban treefrog Osteopilus septentrionalis is a very large (up to 140 mm in Florida) treefrog that is not indigenous to the United States. It is variable in color, ranging from gray to green to brown, and individuals are capable of changing color. Cuban treefrogs also have very warty skin, a mottled color pattern, and very enlarged toe discs. The front toes are not webbed and the rear toes are only slightly webbed. (Ashton and Ashton 1988).Internal examination reveals that the skin on top of the head of adult is fused with the bones of the skull, which is a trait not shared by native species (GSMFC).O. septentrionalis tadpoles are black above and lighter below, with a wide-finned tail flecked with dark spots (Ashton and Ashton 1988).
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Distribution

Osteopilus septentrionalis is native to Cuba and nearby islands. it has also been introduced throughout the Caribbean and into southern Florida (Bartlett, 1996).

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Introduced ); neotropical (Introduced , Native )

Other Geographic Terms: island endemic

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Range Description

This species occurs on Cuba, the Isla de Juventud (Cuba), Archipelago de los Canarreos (Cuba), the Archipelago de Sabana-Camaguey (Cuba), Cayos de San Felipe (Cuba), the Cayman Islands, and the following places in the Bahamas: Little and Great Bahamas Banks, Long Island, Cat Island, Conception Island, Rum Cay, San Salvador, Crooked-Acklands Bank, and Great Inagua Island. It is introduced on Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands (St. Croix, St John, St Thomas), Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Beef Island and Peter Island (British Virgin Islands), the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Florida Keys and mainland Florida (USA), Hawaii (USA), Anguilla, St Martin (France portion, not yet in Netherlands portion), St Barthelemy, Bonaire, and Limon, Costa Rica (Gerardo Chaves pers. comm.). It occurs from sea level up to 1,110m asl.
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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) Cuba and Isla de la Juventud; Archipielago de los Canarreos, Archipielago de Sabana-Camaguey, Cayos de San Felipe; Cayman Islands; Little and Great Bahama banks, Long Island, Cat Island, Conception Island, Rum Cay, San Salvador, Crooked-Acklins Bank, Great Inagua Island. Introduced in northwestern (Ramey Air Force Base) and northeastern Puerto Rico (Joglar and Rios Lopez 1995, Herpetological Review 26:105-106); St. Croix (see Philibosian and Yntema 1978); St. Thomas; several of the British Virgin Islands (Owen et al., 2005, Herpetol. Rev. 36:76); Florida Keys and mainland Florida, including the panhandle (Meshaka 1996, 2001; Townsend et al., 2002, Herpetol. Rev. 33:75; Johnston, 2004, Herpetol. Rev. 35:184; Welker, 2004, Herpetol. Rev. 35:283; Johnson, 2004, Herpetol. Rev. 35:405; Krysko et al. 2005); Saint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles (Schwartz and Henderson 1988, Schwartz and Henderson 1991, Powell et al. 1992); Anguilla, Lesser Antilles (Townsend et al. 2000); Oahu, Hawaii (McKeown 1996).

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Distribution and Habitat

This species is native to Cuba, the Isla de Pinos, the Bahamas Islands including Little Bahama Bank, Grand Bahama Bank, San Salvador, Rum, Crooked, and Acklins Islands, and the Cayman Islands including Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac (Duellman and Crombie 1970). This species has been introduced into a large part of southern Florida (Barbour 1913; Schwartz 1952; Allen and Neill 1953; King 1960; Duellman and Crombie 1970; Myers 1977; Wilson and Porras 1983; Smith and Kohler 1987; Conant and Collins 1991).

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The native range of O. septentrionalis includes Cuba, the Isla de Pinos, the Bahamas, and the Cayman Islands (Duellman and Crombie 1970).Cuban treefrogs now occur throughout peninsular Florida, with breeding populations found as far north as Jacksonville on the east coast and as far north as Cedar Key on the Gulf Coast. Individuals (but not breeding pairs) have been reported from the Florida panhandle and also from coastal Georgia and South Carolina (Johnson 2007). A population introduced to Hawaii has reportedly been extirpated (Banks et al. 2004). Osteopilus septentrionalis is established in all six counties of the India River Lagoon watershed.
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Physical Description

Morphology

This is the largest of the American tree frogs. Males generally have a maximum size of 5.1-6.3 cm (SVL), with females being much larger, attaining a size of 12.7 cm (SVL). Osteopilus septentrionalis is highly variable in color, but they are usually some shade of gray, tan or olive, occasionally with dark, marbled blotches dorsally. Their skin is very textured, and they have extremely large eyes and toe pads (Bartlett, 1996).

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Size

Length: 14 cm

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Osteopilus septentrionalis is the largest treefrog in Florida, with males typically growing to 90 mm in body length and females usually reaching 125 mm and possibly as much as 140 mm (Behler 1979, Ashton and Ashton 1988, Carmichael and Williams 1991, Conant and Collins 1991).Cuban treefrogs are long-lived, with a lifespan of approximately 5-10 years (Mattison 1987).
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Type Information

Holotype for Osteopilus septentrionalis
Catalog Number: USNM 5174
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: District of Guantanamo, Guantánamo, Cuba
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Syntype for Osteopilus septentrionalis
Catalog Number: USNM 12166
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Sex/Stage: Male;
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: No Further Locality Data, Cuba
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Syntype for Osteopilus septentrionalis
Catalog Number: USNM 167237
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Sex/Stage: Male;
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: No Further Locality Data, Cuba
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Look Alikes

The enlarged climbing toe disks aid in identifying Osteopilus septentrionalis as a member of the treefrog (Hylidae) family. In Florida the large size and general appearance also allow . septentrionalis to be distinguished from co-occurring treefrogs. The largest native treefrog, the barking treefrog (Hyla gratiosa) is less than 75mm in length, and the statewide common green treefrog (H. cinerea) only grows to around 60mm (NSiS).Juvenile Cuban treefrogs are more difficult to positively identify than adults.
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Ecology

Habitat

Typical of tree frogs, O. septentrionalis spends most of its time in trees or very large plants, especially those with large leaves.They are found only where low temperatures stay above 10 degrees C, with daytime temperatures between 23-29 degrees. This species also prefers areas of high humidity, thus it is very common along waterways. As O. septentrionalis has been introduced, it has become particularly abundant around the pool areas of hotels, where the comination of large decorative vegetation and abundant food resources have made for a favorable habitat (Bartlett,1996).

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It generally inhabits mesic habitats but may be found in xeric habitat in the Bahamas, living in all kinds of disturbed habitats, including towns and houses. It is also present in forests, mangroves and coastal areas. It can also tolerate brackish water. It is found on the ground and on tree trunks. Males call from vegetation near pooled rainwater. Eggs are laid in still water, including pools, marshes, flood pastures, and ditches. It is competing with other species, and predates native amphibians in the wild. It might also be a vector for pathogens.

Breeding events have been found to last only one night and male mating behavior changes from acoustic competition to scramble searching over the breeding event. Most males have similar opportunities to mate with a female, and there doesn't appear to be a direct adaptive benefit for high mating selectivity by females, which can increase the invasive capacity of O. septentrionalis (Vargas Salinas, 2006).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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Comments: Primarily in mesic situations; in the Bahamas, often in more xeric areas (pine forest); in banana plantings (Schwartz and Henderson 1991). Daytime retreats include surface objects, hollow logs, burrows of PELTAPHRYNE, high corners or beams of rooms of abandoned houses, nests of birds (grassquit, bananaquit); very occasionally females may be found in sun on tree trunks in wooded areas (Schwartz and Henderson 1991). Florida: suburbs as well as rural areas, including pinelands and mesic-tropical hammocks (Ashton and Ashton 1988). May congregate in swimming pools or cisterns (Philibosian and Yntema 1978). Eggs are laid in rain pools, temporary ponds, TYPHA marshes, flooded pastures, ditches with black mangrove, flooded areas in TERMINALIA stands, standing water in pinewoods and mixed pine-hardwoods; sometimes in brackish water (Ashton and Ashton 1988). Larvae aquatic. Males call from leaves, branches, limbs, and stems of saplings, and from vertical walls adjacent to pools (often small) of rain water (Schwartz and Henderson 1991).

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Osteopilus septentrionalis is a voracious predator, and will eat almost anything they can fit in their mouths. They are generally insectivorous, feeding mainly on large cockroaches and moths. however, large adults are known to consume everything from small lizards and snakes to young mice and even hatchling birds (Bartlett, 1996).

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Comments: Diet includes beetles, roaches, crickets, bugs, moths, caterpillars, mayflies, small crustaceans, and other frogs (Schwartz and Henderson 1991). Larvae at least sometimes cannibalistic.

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Cuban treefrogs are recognized as voracious predators that readily consume any prey items that are small enough to catch and eat. Insects and insect larvae, spiders, other invertebrates, lizards, and other frogs make up much of the diet (Carmichael and Williams 1991, Conant and Collins 1991).Osteopilus septentrionalis is an ambush predator often observed near lights waiting to feed on insects attracted by the illumination (Johnson 2007).
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Associations

Cuban treefrogs in Florida are important prey items in the diets of a number of aquatic and terrestrial snakes (Carmichael and Williams, 1991).Invasion History: The first reports of the Cuban treefrog occurring in the United States date to 1931 from Key West, although the species likely existed there well before it was reported. Introduction was likely accidental, e.g., as undetected stowaways in import vegetables from Cuba (Behler 1979). By the early 1950s, Osteopilus septentrionalis was present in most of the Keys, and by 1952 specimens were turning up in mainland Florida (Miami) as well (Schwartz 1952). Northward range expansion continued such that the species was confirmed present in Broward County by 1960, and in St. Lucie and Indian River counties less than 20 years later (King 1960, Myers 1977). Range expansion continued on the Gulf coast of Florida such that the species was confirmed in Naples by 1970 and in Fort Meyers and Sanibel Island by the early 1980s (Duellman and Crombie 1970, Wilson and Porras 1983). The species is now established on the east coast of Florida as far north as Jacksonville.Unintended introduction of O. septentrionalis to new locations in the state is no doubt still facilitated through the unintentional transportation of individuals hidden in shipping crates or on potted plants and shrubs transplanted into new locations (Behler 1979). Potential to Compete With Natives: Cuban treefrogs will eat smaller native frogs, preying on them as they attempt to utilize the same breeding sites (Allen and Neill 1953, Carmichael and Williams 1991). The larger size of the Cuban treefrogs likely also gives them an advantage in traditional competitive interactions with native species.Laboratory experiments have demonstrated that Osteopilus septentrionalis tadpoles are competitive dominants in interactions with tadpoles of two native species, and anecdotal reports from Florida homeowners suggests that adult O. septentrionalis are replacing natives in backyard ecological communities (Johnson 2007). Possible Economic Consequences of Invasion: Large-scale economic effects of exotic Cuban treefrogs in Florida have yet to be reported, although the species can be a nuisance animal, e.g., entering homes and getting into and possibly disrupting the function of outdoor electrical boxes (Johnson 2007). The skin secretions of this frog can be irritating, especially to highly sensitive people (Carmichael and Williams 1991).
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Population Biology

Osteopilus septentrionalis is abundant throughout its introduced Florida range, particularly in coastal counties and in the southern half of the state.There is concern among Florida wildlife managers that the population will expand to the point where it will represent a serious ecological issue, and researchers are investigating a specific chemical deterrent as a future management tool (Johnson 2007).
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General Ecology

In the Virgin Islands, apparently dispersed via cars and trucks (Philibosian and Yntema 1978).

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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Life Expectancy

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
12.9 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 12.9 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

This species reproduces in late spring, as temperatures climb into the range of 27-29 degrees C. Males typically establish some kind of territory in a pond or flooded ditch, and call to females with vocalizations consisting of clucks, growls and squeaks. Mating occurs via inguinal amplexus, and eggs are laid in scattered masses underwater.

Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

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Calls throughout the year, but choruses most frequent March-September (Schwartz and Henderson 1991). Eggs hatch within 2 days (Ashton and Ashton 1988).

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The breeding season in Florida coincides with the wet season, persisting from May through October (Behler 1979). Beginning around March and lasting through the breeding season, the distinctive grating/scraping mating croak of calling males is commonly detected (Duellman and Schwartz 1958, GSMFC).Males mature at around 40 mm length and the much larger females mature at 50 mm or larger. Mating occurs in ponds and along lake margins, in drainage ditches and other ephemeral water bodies, and in pools, cisterns, and other manmade structures. During mating, females will lay an egg mass that is externally fertilized by males. The fertilized egg mass floats in a sheet at the water's surface until hatching (Behler 1979, Ashton and Ashton 1988). The size of the egg mass varies based on the size of the female; numbers ranging from 130 to 3,000 eggs have been reported. Large females can produce more than 15,000 eggs during the course of a breeding season (Johnson 2007).
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Growth

The eggs are around 3 mm when they hatch into tadpoles one to two days after fertilization (Duellman and Schwartz 1958). At 20 hours post-hatching, tadpoles are around 2 mm from snout to vent with a tail length of about 4 mm. They reach a size of 26-32 mm at metamorphosis, occurring usually 30-60 days after hatching.
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Currently, numbers of Osteopilus septentrionalis appear to be on the rise. They appear to be doing especially well in urban residential areas, and are spreading very rapidly throughout the Caribbean. This does not bode well for native species of tree frog, which don't appear to be able to compete with O. septentrionalis.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2010

Assessor/s
Blair Hedges, Luis Díaz, Beatrice Ibéné, Rafael Joglar, Robert Powell, Federico Bolaños, Gerardo Chaves

Reviewer/s
Global Amphibian Assessment Coordinating Team (Simon Stuart, Janice Chanson, Neil Cox and Bruce Young)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, tolerance of a broad range of habitats, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.

History
  • 2008
    Least Concern
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable

Environmental Specificity: Moderate to broad.

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Population

Population
It is an extremely abundant species. It is spreading rapidly, with frequent new island records (Perry and Gerber, 2006).

Population Trend
Increasing
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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

This hylid frog usually breeds in temporary bodies of water. Tadpoles have relatively fast growth rates and are usually able to metamorphose within weeks. Breeding males have horny nuptial excrescenses on their thumbs, and a medial internal subgular vocal sac with posterolateral extensions (Duellman and Crombie 1970). Females are much larger than males (Duellman and Schwartz 1958). Males are reported to mature at a small size, about 40 mm in length (Blair 1958). Females lay approximately 130 eggs (Duellman and Schwartz 1958; Ashton and Ashton 1988) per clutch. Eggs are deposited in lakes, ponds, drainage ditches, swimming pools, cisterns, etc (Behler 1979; Ashton and Ashton 1988). Duellman and Schwartz (1958) report eggs forming a thin floating sheet at the surface. This species is capable of using pools of relatively high salinity for reproduction (Duellman and Schwartz 1958; Ashton and Ashton 1988).

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Threats

Major Threats
There are no threats to this species. The species' diet suggests that it could severely impact native species, and its tadpoles impact those of some native anurans (see Perry and Gerber, 2006).
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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

Cuban treefrogs are apt predators. In areas where they have been introduced, they readily feed on smaller native frogs (Allen and Neill 1953; Carmichael and Williams 1991). These frogs should be handled with caution because they contain natural skin secretions that can cause skin irritation in humans (Carmichael and Williams 1991).

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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
It occurs in many protected areas.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

This species has been widely introduced throughout the Caribbean and into southern Florida, and appears to be having a negative impact on the ecosystems it is invading. It has been observed that in the areas of introduction, there has been a marked decrease in the populations of native tree frogs, probably due to predation and competition for resources (Bartlett,1996).

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Osteopilus septentrionalis does not appear to have much of an impact on human beings, aside from a very small representation in the American pet trade.

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Risks

Species Impact: In Florida, may be having negative effect on populations of native treefrogs, HYLA CINEREA and H. SQUIRELLA (Wilson and Porras 1983).

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Formerly included in genus Hyla.

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