Osteopilus septentrionalis, 18 July 2016

Osteopilus septentrionalis, the Cuban treefrog;
Volusia county, Florida (18 July 2016).

The Cuban treefrog, Osteopilus septentrionalis, is a tank of a treefrog. Non-native to Florida, this invasive species has successfully colonized much of peninsular Florida. It’s easy to understand how and why; the Cuban treefrog is significantly larger and rowdier than any of our native treefrog species. Reaching lengths upwards to five inches, the Cuban treefrog is a voracious nocturnal predator. In addition to spiders and insects, this species also hunts smaller treefrogs and lizards. Thus, when the Cuban treefrogs show up, our native treefrogs tend to diminish somewhat. This is, of course, unfortunate — but the introduction of a species to a new region is not unprecedented or inherently unnatural. The history of life is marked by such ecological invasions, and the onus is on the native populations to either adapt or wither away.

That being said, in Florida we do have an unnatural volume of introduced species hitting the region from damn near every corner of the globe. I like to describe ours as a postmodern ecology — one that simply can’t find equilibrium and/or balance because every time you turn around there’s a new player on the field changing the rules of the game. The Cuban treefrog has certainly been a game-changer for our native treefrogs. Personally, I hope our treefrogs find the path of adaptation because there’s very little people can do to stop the march of the Cuban treefrog. Their population growth seemingly exceeds our ability to take individual players off the board. For every Cuban treefrog you remove from your yard, there’s another anxious to move in and take up that position. Short of a cooling climate (which ain’t happening) or some unforeseen species-specific disease, there’s very little to stop the march of the Cuban treefrog at this time.

Learn more about the Squirrel treefrog.

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