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Puerto Rican Coqui

Puerto Rican Coqui

Eleutherodactylus coqui

Status: Not Listed

Classification: Amphibian

Description

The Puerto Rican coqui (pronounced ko-kee) is a small arboreal frog that’s brown, yellow, or green in color. Its scientific genus name—Eleutherodactylus—means “free toes” because, unlike many frogs, the coqui doesn’t have webbed feet. These amphibians have special disks, or toe pads, on their feet that allow them to climb up vertical structures and cling to trees and leaves. Puerto Rican coquis are one to two inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters) long and weigh two to four ounces (57 to 113 grams). They are one of the largest frog species found in Puerto Rico.

Range

As their name suggests, Puerto Rican coquis are native to the forests of Puerto Rico, but they’ve also been introduced to other places. One such place is the U.S. Virgin Islands, where they exist relatively peacefully. They’ve also been introduced to Hawaii, where they are considered a pest species because they consume native insects, and their deafening choruses are often irritating to people who aren’t used to them. Small numbers of Puerto Rican coquis are found in Florida greenhouses, and at one point, were also found in greenhouses in Louisiana, where they were considered an exotic species. Puerto Rican coquis utilize a variety of habitats, including forests, gardens, greenhouses, and spaces under rocks and logs. Most coquis spend their nights in the forest canopy and retreat to shelter on the ground at dawn. Their predators include birds, snakes, and large arthropods such as spiders.

Diet

These frogs eat mostly arthropods, including spiders, crickets, and roaches. Smaller coquis often eat smaller prey, such as ants, while larger coquis have been observed eating small frogs and lizards. A coqui will often sit motionless on leaves until prey gets very close, then quickly strike to ambush its prey.

Life History

The term “coqui” refers to the sound of the call produced by males to attract females and repel other males during mating season. Breeding occurs throughout the year, but especially during the wet season (April to October). Unlike most frogs, the Puerto Rican coqui doesn't have a tadpole stage. Instead, tiny frogs with short tails emerge from the eggs. Males stay with the eggs for several days after they hatch to protect them from predators and prevent desiccation, or drying up. The eggs become unviable if they dry out, so the father frog diligently provides them with water via contact with his moist skin. More than 90 percent of adults don’t live longer than a year, although some six-year-old wild coquis have been found.

Conservation

Lowland populations are stable, but coqui numbers may be declining in the Palo Colorado Forest of Puerto Rico due to a fungal disease called chytridiomycosis. Habitat loss is also a threat to these frogs.

Fun Fact

Choruses of male coquis, which are beloved throughout Puerto Rico, can be heard from dusk until dawn all over the island.

Sources

Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

Hawaii Department of Agriculture

NatureServe Explorer

Nonindigenous Aquatic Species, United States Geological Survey

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

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