Eleutherodactylus coqui

 

 

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The Coqui frog, native to Puerto Rico, is thought to have been accidentally released in Hawaii sometime around the mid nineties. It's suspected that the frogs arrived as stowaways in water that was trapped in the leaves of tropical plants (most likely bromeliads). These plants had been imported to Hawaii from Puerto Rico and sold in garden centers of retail department stores. Without question, the Coqui frog is impacting Hawaii's native insect population, but, is this new population of hungry frogs feeding on insects that are the natural food for other species? While the answer appears to be an obvious yes, the threat of this frog's impact on Hawaii's unique native species of insects and the native birds that feed on them isn't the main issue that has put this frog in the headlines of the local news. Instead, it's the way that these tiny frogs communicate during the night that has turned the peaceful and quiet tropical nights of some Hawaii's windward towns into evenings of endless sonic chaos.

A Coqui frog (shown above life-sized) has an amazingly loud voice. It's call, as loud as 90 decibels, is an abrupt two or three note whistle that sounds phonetically similar to the frog's name : Ko-Keee! In some areas of the Big Island, Coqui are now so plentiful that the night air is filled with the deafening drone of hundreds of frogs. Unlike most frogs, Coqui have no tadpole stage. Young hatch from the egg as fully developed frogs with a small tail that supplies the young frog with nourishment as the frog matures.

The state of Hawaii has declared war on the Coqui, which is now found on all of it's main islands. Eradication efforts, such as spraying caffiene on heavily populated areas (caffiene is poison to frogs when absorbed throuigh the skin), seems to be futile. It appears that this prolific frog, like so many other accidental releases in Hawaii, is now firmly established in the wild. Plans to create a new inter-island Sea Ferry worry environmentalists who believe that this will help the proliferation of the Coqui, as they are known to cling to the sides of vehicles.

It was first believed that the Coqui would not be able to survive the colder temperatures of high altitude areas and would instead be confined to warmer lower altitudes. Today, Coqui have expanded their habitat on the big island and have now reached parts of the town of Volcano at an elevation of over 3,700 feet.

- David J. Cogswell

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