(Duméril & Bibron, 1841)
The Cuban Treefrog (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 panhandle. 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.
The Cuban treefrog ranges in size from 3 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 the head of an adult frog is rubbed (between the eyes), the skin does not move. This is a special adaptation that prevents water loss, since there are fewer blood vessels in the "co-ossified" (fused) area. When handled, Cuban tree frogs secrete a toxic mucus from their skin in humans, this can cause an allergic reaction or burning sensation to the eyes and nose, and even trigger asthma. Like many frogs, Cuban treefrogs are sexually dimorphic–females are larger than males. During the summer breeding season, males can be identified by their darker throats and the dark, callus-like 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: mealworms, 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, mainly because of its impacts on native ecosystems. This large frog directly impacts native ecosystems by eating native frogs, lizards, and snakes and poses a threat to the biodiversity of the areas into which it spreads by causing native treefrog populations to decline. These effects are most noticeable in urban and suburban areas, where native treefrogs such as the Green treefrog (Hyla cinerea) and the Squirrel treefrog (Hyla squirella) are rapidly disappearing. It has spread throughout peninsular Florida, and is also commonly found in isolated populations as far north as southern Georgia . It hitchhikes on vehicles or ornamental plants, spreading to new areas, and has been transported as far north as Canada.
Cuban treefrogs are commonly available in the pet trade. They are inexpensive, and when cared for properly tend to live 5–10 years. They feed readily on commercially available crickets. However, the skin of Cuban treefrogs secretes a toxic mucus that can burn the eyes and trigger an allergic (or asthmatic) reaction; as a result, this species is not an ideal pet species, especially for children. Many non-native species have been introduced into our environment by releases (accidental and intentional) of pets. Cuban treefrogs or any other non-native pet should never be released into the wild .
Cuban tree frogs can vary greatly in color, sometimes appearing white when inactive or cold.
This green-colored Cuban Tree Frog was photographed in Cocoa, Florida.
Species: Osteopilus septentrionalis
Type locality: "Cuba".
Holotype: MNHNP 4612.