The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Osteopilus septentrionalis
Osteopilus septentrionalis
(Cuban Treefrog)
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Osteopilus septentrionalis (Duméril and Bibron, 1841)

Common name: Cuban Treefrog

Synonyms and Other Names: Giant Tree-frog, Marbled Tree-toad, rainette de Cuba (French), rana cubana, rana platernera (Spanish)

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Osteopilus septentrionalis is a very large, warty, treefrog (hylid) with an adult SVL (snout-vent length) of 28-165 mm (1.1-6.5 in); making it the largest treefrog in the U.S. (Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999; Meshaka, 2001; Elliott et al., 2009). The toepads (disks) are noticeably large, similar in size to its tympanum (eardrum) (Dorcas and Gibbons, 2008; Elliott et al., 2009). The dorsal color of Cuban treefrogs, a species which has the ability to change colors, may vary from unpatterned to heavily-patterned gray, tan, brown, bronze, olive-green to blue-green (Elliott et al., 2009; also illustrated in Dorcas and Gibbons, 2008; Knapp, 2008; Krysko et al., 2011a). Unlike indigenous U.S. treefrogss, the dorsal skin on adult O. septentrionalis is fused to the skull (Powell et al., 1998; Meshaka, 2011). Younger individuals are difficult to distinguish from indigenous U.S. treefrogs because they lack “warts” and exhibit very little pattern (Conant and Collins, 1998); however, they sometimes lack the light or dark lateral stripe found on many treefrog species (Conant and Collins, 1998). Tadpoles are black or darkly pigmented dorsally, with a visible intestinal coil ventrally, and a moderately pigmented tail with light areas on the anterior musculature (Gregoire, 2005 [illustrated]; Dorcas and Gibbons, 2008).

Unlike other U.S. treefrogs, the single vocal sac of calling males inflates bilaterally, giving the appearance of two sacs (Conant and Collins, 1998; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999). The call is a rasping snarl or rubbery snore which may superficially resemble the call of Lithobates [=Rana] sphenocephalus, the southern leopard frog (Bartlett, 2000; Knapp, 2008; also CD recordings available from Library of Natural Sounds, 1996); however, a higher-pitched, scream-like escape call is used to deter predators (Dorcas and Gibbons, 2008).

Size: 28-165 mm SVL (snout-vent length)

Native Range: Osteopilus septentrionalis is indigenous to Cuba, Isla de la Juventud (=Isle of Youth or Isle of Pines), the Bahamas, including San Salvador and Acklins Island, and the Cayman Islands (Echternacht et al., 2011; Heinicke et al., 2011; Krysko et al., 2011a).

US auto-generated map Legend USGS Logo
Alaska auto-generated map
Hawaii auto-generated map
Caribbean auto-generated map
Puerto Rico &
Virgin Islands
Guam auto-generated map
Guam Saipan
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Osteopilus septentrionalis are found here.

StateYear of earliest observationYear of last observationTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
Alabama200720122Lower Tallapoosa; Mobile Bay
Colorado198919891Middle South Platte-Cherry Creek
Florida1931201745Alafia; Big Cypress Swamp; Blackwater; Caloosahatchee; Cape Canaveral; Charlotte Harbor; Choctawhatchee-Escambia; Crystal-Pithlachascotee; Daytona-St. Augustine; Everglades; Florida Bay-Florida Keys; Florida Southeast Coast; Floridian; Hillsborough; Kissimmee; Kissimmee; Little Manatee; Lower Ochlockonee; Lower St. Johns; Manatee; Myakka; Nassau; New; Northern Okeechobee Inflow; Ochlockonee; Oklawaha; Peace; Peace; Peace-Tampa Bay; Pensacola Bay; Perdido Bay; Santa Fe; Sarasota Bay; South Atlantic-Gulf Region; Southern Florida; Southern Florida; St. Andrew-St. Joseph Bays; St. Johns; St. Marys; Tampa Bay; Tampa Bay; Upper St. Johns; Vero Beach; Withlacoochee; Yellow
Georgia200420183Cumberland-St. Simons; Lower Oconee; Ogeechee Coastal
Louisiana201320176Amite; East Central Louisiana Coastal; Eastern Louisiana Coastal; Liberty Bayou-Tchefuncta; Lower Mississippi-New Orleans; Vermilion
North Carolina201420141Haw
Puerto Rico195520072Cibuco-Guajataca; Eastern Puerto Rico
Virgin Islands197419741St. John-St. Thomas
Virginia199219921Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan

Table last updated 5/25/2018

† Populations may not be currently present.

* HUCs are not listed for states where the observation(s) cannot be approximated to a HUC (e.g. state centroids or Canadian provinces).

Ecology: Osteopilus septentrionalis is a tropical, mostly arboreal treefrog (hylid), which has an insectivorous/carnivorous diet (Meshaka, 1996c, 2001, 2011; Granatosky et al., 2011). Smaller vertebrates are eaten, including indigenous frogs, indigenous and nonindigenous lizards, and other O. septentrionalis ( Meshaka, 1996c, 2000, 2001, 2011; Granatosky and Krysko, 2011). They are in turn preyed upon by native snakes and owls (Meshaka and Ferster, 1995; Meshaka, 2001, 2011; Dorcas and Gibbons, 2008), and parasitized by the nematode, Skrjabinoptera scelopori (Meshaka, 1996d). Adult activity is both arboreal and terrestrial habitats (Meshaka, 2001, 2011; Elliott et al., 2009), and this species can tolerate brackish water (Hedges et al, 2008).

Cuban treefrogs have an extended breeding season that may last throughout most of the year in southern Florida (Meshaka, 2001, 2011). Female O. septentrionalis in Puerto Rico exhibit no selectively in mate choice; a reproductive adaptation that may ultimately increase this frog’s fecundity (Vargas-Salinas, 2006c). Females are continuously fertile, laying very large clutches of 1,200 to over 16,000 eggs (Meshaka, 2001, 2011). Eggs can be laid in any warm, shallow body of water, usually lacking predatory fish; including man-made structures and holes formed by storm-toppled trees (Meshaka, 1993, 2001, 2011; Elliott et al., 2009). Tadpoles are omnivorous, even cannibalistic, and could potentially eat the eggs of indigenous frogs (Babbitt and Meshaka, 2000; Meshaka, 2001, 2011). However, eggs of the nonindigenous toad, Rhinella marina, are toxic to O. septentrionalis tadpoles (Punzo and Lindstrom, 2001).

Cuban Treefrogs are a storm-adapted species that can immediately increase its fecundity and rapidly disperse during and after hurricanes (Meshaka, 1993, 1996b, 2001, 2011). 

Cuban Treefrogs are well known for exploiting man-made structures and water supplies, which results in the successful colonization of urban and suburban areas (Townsend et al, 2002). This species can be many times more numerous in urban habitats than any of its natural habitats (Meshaka, 1996a). 

Means of Introduction: Osteopilus septentrionalis is usually introduced through horticultural shipments and plantings (especially palm trees) (Enge et al. 2008; Krysko et al., 2011b; Powell et al., 2011), building materials (Owen et al., 2005, 2006; Krysko et al., 2011b), and motorized vehicles (Meshaka, 1996a; Enge et al. 2008). In addition to anthropogenic dispersal, it also is possible that they can disperse throughout much of the Caribbean by rafting on floating vegetation (Meshaka, 2001). Several authors have suggested that indigenous Cuban Treefrogs may have existed on Key West and the lower Florida Keys since pre-Colombian times (Lazell, 1989; Meshaka, 2001; Heinicke et al., 2011).

James R. Wiley (personal communication 2005, 2006) has repeatedly observed Cuban Treefrogs hidden between the doors and door jams of his car when leaving Melbourne (Brevard County, Florida) on his way home to Gainesville (Alachua County, Florida) where they escape into his residential neighborhood.

The unverified population on Oahu, Hawaii, is the only example of O. septentrionalis being allegedly introduced (illegally) through pet releases during the 1980s (McKeown, 1996; Meshaka, 2001).

Status: In the united States, the Cuban Treefrog is established throughout Florida in the penisula and panhandle, as well as long the Atlantic coast through to Savanah, Georgia, along the lforida pandhanlhe, and in New Orleans, LA. It has also been introduced and become established in Oahu, HI, St. John, and Puerto Rico.

Impact of Introduction: The impact of the Cuban Treefrog throughout its nonindigenous range is not yet clear; however, its ability to prey on indigenous frogs is a cause for concern in Puerto Rico (Meshaka, 2001), Costa Rica, and Florida (Lever, 2003; Rice et al., 2011). Butterfield et al. (1997) believe that the notion of competition with indigenous species in Florida is not as extensive as thought. A laboratory study utilizing Cuban Treefrogs from Florida indicates that they readily feed on adult native treefrogs even though insects are preferred (Wyatt and Forys, 2004). Populations of native treefrogs recover and subsequently increase when O. septentrionalis were removed from selected localities in Florida (Rice et al., 2011). Cuban Treefrog tadpoles compete with indigenous amphibian larvae in Florida and have a negative impact on their growth and development (Smith, 2005). Smith (2004) found a male O. septentrionalis showing mating behavior (amplexing) with an indigenous female Southern leopard frog (Lithobates. sphenocephalus) in Hillsborough County, Florida, in May 2002. While these two species cannot hybridize, the result of these pairings may cause reproductive interference with indigenous frogs (Smith, 2004). In Hawaii, the species is established, and there are no indigenous frogs (McKeown, 1996), which could have ecological consequences.

Cuban treefrogs can be a nuisance to humans because of populations can become quite dense, and their propensity for showing up in and around residences in Florida (including drain pipes and vents) (Crabbe, 2007). The mating calls of male Cuban treefrogs can be an annoyance as well (Johnson, 2007).

The toxic skin secretions in this species can cause irritation to mucous membranes of humans. The secretions can cause a burning and itching sensation that can sometimes last for more than an hour. (Carmichael and Williams, 1991; Dalrymple, 1994; Dorcas and Gibbons, 2008; Meshaka, 2011).

Fitcher (1970) makes the dubious, undocumented claim that O. septentrionalis attacks electrical transformers, mistaking the buzzing noise for insects; thus, resulting in electrical shock to the frog and power outages to the immediate neighborhood. However, it is possible that may cause damage to transformers simply by getting caught in them (Perkins cited in Crabbe, 2007).

Remarks: The most thorough, overall literature reviews on Cuban Treefrogs are by Duellman and Crombie (1970), and Meshaka (2001, 2011). More taxonomic reviews have been done by Duellman and Crombie (1970), Frost (1985, 2000), Maxson (1992), Anderson (1996), Collins and Taggart (2002, 2009), Faivovich et al. (2005), and Frost et al. (2006). Lazell (1989) continued to place O. septentrionalis in the genus Hyla; a taxonomic arrangement that is no longer accepted. Schwartz and Henderson (1991), Rivalta González and Díaz Beltrán (2003), Vargas-Salinas (2006a, b, c), Elliott et al. (2009), and Granatosky and Krysko (2011) have reviewed the natural history of O. septentrionalis, but by far the most thorough review of its natural history, distribution, and dispersal is by Meshaka (2001, 2011, and his other studies listed therein).

Meshaka (2001, 2011) predicts that O. septentrionalis may eventually disperse to Jamaica, and much of the Caribbean. Additionally, Florida populations have the potantial to spread along the Gulf Coast, throughout the coastal United States, then southward into Mexico (Meshaka, 2001, 2011; Rödder and Weinsheimer, 2009). Their northward dispersal in the United States may be limited by climate (Meshaka, 2001; Granatosky and Krysko, 2011) and a decrease in female body size with northward latitude (McGarrity and Johnson, 2009). However, Cuban treefrogs are quite tolerant to short-term exposure to freezing temperatures, and evidence suggests that previous exposure to cold may increase the ability of this species to withstand future cold weather events (Simpson 2013; Wilson 2010). 

References: (click for full references)

Anderson, K. 1996. A karyological perspective on the monophyly of the hylid genus Osteopilus. Pp. 157-168. In: R. Powell and R. W. Henderson (editors). Contributions to West Indian Herpetology. A Tribute to Albert Schwartz. Contributions to Herpetology 12. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Ithaca. 475 pp.

Babbitt, K. J., and W. E. Meshaka, Jr. 2000. Benefits of eating conspecifics: Effects of background diet on survival and metamorphosis in the Cuban Treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis). Copeia 2000(2):469-474.

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Vargas-Salinas, F. 2006a. Osteopilus septentrionalis (Cuban Tree frog). Reproduction. Herpetological Review 37(2):205.

Vargas-Salinas, F. 2006b. Sexual size dimorphism in the Cuban Treefrog Osteopilus septentrionalis. Amphibia-Reptilia 27(4):419-426 + erratum.

Vargas[-]Salinas, F. 2006c. Breeding behavior and colonization success of the Cuban Treefrog Osteopilus septentrionalis. Herpetologica 62(4):398-408.

Wiley, J. R. 2005, 2006. Personal communication—Assistant Curator, Florida State Collection of Arthropods, Division of Plant Industry, Entomology Section, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, 1911 SW 34th Street, Gainesville, FL  32614.

Wilson, L. 2010. Diet, critical thermal minimum, and occurrence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in Cuban treefrogs (Osteopilus septentrionalis). Thesis, Valdosta State University.

Wyatt, J. L. and E. A. Forys. 2004. Conservation implications of predation by Cuban Treefrogs (Osteopilus septentrionalis) on native hylids in Florida. Southeastern Naturalist 3(4):695-700.

Other Resources:
Cuban Treefrog (UF Florida Wildlife Extension)

Global Invasive Species Database Factsheet

Author: Somma, L.A., W.M. Daniel, and C. Morningstar

Revision Date: 7/25/2018

Citation Information:
Somma, L.A., W.M. Daniel, and C. Morningstar, 2018, Osteopilus septentrionalis (Duméril and Bibron, 1841): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=57, Revision Date: 7/25/2018, Access Date: 8/21/2018

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

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Page Last Modified: Tuesday, August 07, 2018


The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [8/21/2018].

Contact us if you are using data from this site for a publication to make sure the data are being used appropriately and for potential co-authorship if warranted. For queries involving fish, please contact Pam Fuller. For queries involving invertebrates, contact Amy Benson.