Florida is home to 27 native frog species and other non-native species. However, the state of Florida doesn’t welcome all of them. There are four invasive frogs in Florida. The spread of these species is undesired and proven harmful in different ways.
Florida has multiple ecosystems that allow aquatic animals to thrive, especially its network of wetlands that are protected by law. The Florida Everglades spans over 1.5 million acres of south Florida. It is one of the largest wetlands in the world and one of the largest subtropical wilderness in North America.
The wetlands are also beneficial to humans in various ways. It helps with water storage, prevents flooding, and maintains the water table for agricultural and urban use. The Florida Everglades supplies drinking water for over 8 million people – that’s one out of every three Floridians!
Invasive species can disrupt the natural ecological processes and health of local species. To learn about which invasive frogs to look out for in Florida, read on about the main four.
Invasive Frogs in Florida
The 4 invasive frogs in Florida that we’re looking at below are the Cuban tree frog, Greenhouse frog, Common Coquí, and Cane toad.
1. Cuban Tree Frog
Scientific name: Osteopilus septentrionalis
Cuban tree frogs are not native to Florida, but now exist throughout the state. They originally came from Cuba, the Bahamas, and the Cayman Islands and accidentally arrived in Florida in the 1920s. Most likely on cargo container ships.
These tree frogs vary in color and can change color, making them hard to identify. They can be gray, white, green, or brown. Some have no markings, while others have dark streaks or blotches. They are typically 1.5 to 3 inches in length but can grow up to 5.5 inches.
Cuban tree frogs are invasive because of the problems they cause for humans and the ecosystem. They eat native frogs, take over birdhouses, and their tadpoles compete with native tadpoles.
In urban areas, they defecate on walls and windows, leaving stains. They also short-circuit utility switches and cause power outages.
2. Greenhouse Frog
Scientific name: Eleutherodactylus planirostris
Greenhouse frogs are native to Cuba and were first observed in Florida in the 1860s. Its name comes from the fact it was usually introduced as stowaways on imported landscaping materials and tropical plants.
Their successful, rapid spread throughout the United States from Hawaii to Florida has made them an invasive frog in multiple states. Although not as problematic as other invasive species, these frogs have negatively impacted the diversity of native insects.
Today, you can find them in almost any terrestrial habitat in Florida, except only isolated areas in the panhandle. They live near small stream valleys but can also be found in residential areas. You’ll see them in hardwood hammocks, gardens, dumps, greenhouses, and gopher tortoise burrows.
These frogs have plump bodies and their heads may be marked with a dark triangle. They usually grow between 0.6 to 1.25 inches in length.
3. Common Coquí
Scientific name: Eleutherodactylus coqui
The Common Coquí is native to the islands of Vieques and Culebra in Puerto Rico. They are typically under 2 inches long with a brown or tan color. This frog has large toepads for climbing but usually stays close to the ground.
In Florida, you can find them mostly in Dade County in suburban developments. They persist in nurseries and greenhouses since they easily die off during winter freezes. While their populations are not self-sustaining, constant re-introduction keeps them prevalent in Florida.
These frogs easily spread because they don’t require bodies of water for reproduction, only sufficient moisture at any altitudes. While the overall impact of the Common Coquí is unknown in Florida, they can be disruptive to the nursery trade. People often become reluctant to purchase plants that may be infected.
4. Cane Toad
Scientific name: Rhinella marina
Cane toads are also known as marine toads or giant toads. Although not a “frog” by name, both frogs and toads are part of the Anura order. Cane toads are native from the lower Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas to the Amazon basin in South America.
These toads were introduced to Florida in the 1930s and 40s to control pests in sugar cane agriculture. Today, they live in the south and central regions, typically south of the I-4 corridor. They are the largest toads in Florida, with adults growing around 4 to 6 inches in length and up to 9.4 inches.
Cane toads are invasive because of their highly poisonous secretion that’s dangerous to pets. Even their tadpoles are toxic and easily compete with native species. Additionally, these toads eat various things, including native frogs, pet food, and food you leave out.
FAQS About Invasive Frogs in Florida
1. What Are Invasive Frogs?
Invasive frogs are species that are not native to where they live and cause harm to natural resources, habitats, economies, and human health.
2. Why Are Invasive Species a Problem?
There are multiple reasons why invasive species are a problem. They can change a balanced ecosystem and reduce or cause the extinction of native species populations. For example, their tadpoles steal food and space from native species.
Invasive species can also impact humans by being poisonous, such as the cane toad, or disrupting industries, such as the Common Coquí for nurseries. The Cuban tree frog is also known to cause costly power outages, something smaller native tree frogs don’t do.
3. Are All Non-Native Frogs Invasive?
No, not all non-native species are harmful. Sometimes they are introduced to the local environment for beneficial reasons. However, often their introduction backfires or is accidental.
4. What Are Common Traits of Invasive Frogs?
A non-native species can be considered invasive if it has traits such as:
- High dispersal rates
- High rate of reproduction
- Broad diet
- Lives close to humans
- Easily colonizes areas