Eleutherodactylus planirostris
Eleutherodactylus planirostris
(Greenhouse Frog)
Amphibians-Frogs
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Eleutherodactylus planirostris (Cope, 1862)

Common name: Greenhouse Frog

Synonyms and Other Names: Euhyas planirostris

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Eleutherodactylus planirostris is a tiny striped or variably mottled frog, with an adult SVL (snout-vent length) of 16-32 mm (5/8-1.25 in) (Conant and Collins, 1998; Kraus and Thomas, 2009). Generally their dorsal color is brown, but often has distinct reddish or orange tones (Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Conant and Collins, 1998). Unlike Eleutherodactylus coqui, the coqui, and some of our indigenous hylids (treefrogs), greenhouse frogs have indistinct toe pads (disks) and reddish eyes (Conant and Collins, 1998; Powell et al., 1998). DNA analysis may be required to separate this species from other closely related eleutherodactylids (Crawford et al., 2011). The mostly developed young have a tiny tail at hatching (Behler and King, 1979; Conant and Collins, 1998). The call of this diminutive frog is a soft, melodious, series of irregular chirps, usually 4-5 in a series (Deckert, 1921; Goin, 1955; Conant and Collins, 1998; Elliott et al., 2009). After rain or during balmy summer nights in Florida, these barely audible calls are easily mistaken for the sound produced by small crickets (Somma, personal observation). Recordings of the calls of E. planirostris are available on CDs (Library of Natural Sounds, 1996; Elliott et al., 2009) and online (Kraus and Thomas, 2009).

Greenhouse frogs have been illustrated by many authors (Wright and Wright, 1949; Smith, 1978; Behler and King, 1979; Ashton and Ashton, 1988; Dundee and Rossman, 1989; Carmichael and Williams, 1991; Conant and Collins, 1998; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999; Dorcas and Gibbons, 2008; Jensen, 2008; Kraus and Thomas, 2009; Elliot et al., 2009; Meshaka, 2011).

Size: SVL (snout-vent length) of 16-32 mm.

Native Range: Eleutherodactylus planirostris is indigenous to Cuba, the Cayman Islands, and the northern Bahamas (Barbour and Ramsden, 1919; Schwartz, 1974; Schwartz and Thomas, 1975; Frost, 1985; Schwartz and Henderson, 1985, 1991; Powell et al., 1996; Estrada and Ruibal, 1999; Hedges, 1999; Kraus, 2008; Elliott et al., 2009; Echternacht et al., 2011; Heinicke et al., 2011).

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Nonindigenous Occurrences: Nonindigenous E. planirostris were first recorded by Cope (1863, 1875) from an undisclosed locality in southern Florida. Historically, it is the earliest nonindigenous introduction to the Florida herpetofauna (Krysko et al., 2011), and Heinicke et al. (2011) have demonstrated that they originated from Western Cuba. Later, Cope (1889) mentions a single specimen from Key West, Monroe County, Florida. Barbour (1910) collected a single E. planirostris from Eau Gallie, Brevard County, Florida. At this time Stejneger (in Barbour, 1910) mentioned four additional greenhouse frogs found in Lemon City (Miami), Miami-Dade County, Florida. Ever since their initial discovery in Florida more than 148 years ago, E. planirostris has spread northward to include all of the counties in peninsular and northeastern Florida from the northern counties of Nassau, Clay, Columbia, Union, Gilchrist, and Levy, southward to include most of the Florida Keys (Deckert, 1921; Neill, 1951; Duellman and Schwartz, 1958; Schwartz, 1974; Wilson and Porras, 1983; Ashton and Ashton, 1988; Dalrymple, 1988; Dodd and Charest, 1988; Moler, 1988; Lazell, 1989; Carmichael and Williams, 1991; Witz and Wilson, 1991; Bartlett, 1994; Franz, 1995; Conant and Collins, 1998; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999; Meshaka, 1999a, b, 2011; Wray and Owen, 1999; Christman et al., 2000; Krysko and King, 2000; Meshaka et al., 2000, 2004; Seigel et al., 2002; Lillywhite and Sheehy, 2004; Florida Museum of Natural History records). In disjunct localities of the Florida panhandle E. planirostris has been found in Bay, Escambia, Franklin, Okaloosa, Leon, Gadsden, and Wakulla Counties (Jensen and Palis, 1995; Conant and Collins, 1998; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999; Irwin, 1999; Krysko and Reppas, 1999; Irwin and Irwin, 2001; Johnson et al., 2003; Butler and Atkinson, 2008; Meshaka, 2011; Florida Museum of Natural History records).

In July 1998, greenhouse frogs (adults, juveniles, and eggs) were found in flowerpots kept outdoors at a residence in Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia (Winn et al., 1999). Seabrook (1998) indicates a second discovery of E. planirostris found in Georgia by a Brunswick resident in Glynn County. Additionally, Jensen (2008) records E. planirostris from Camden, Lowndes (Valdosta), and Thomas (Thomasville) Counties (also Graham et al., 2007; Dorcas and Gibbons, 2008), Georgia.

In Louisiana, E. planirostris were collected in New Orleans, Orleans Parish, after observations dating back to 1975 (Plotkin and Atkinson, 1979; Dundee and Rossman, 1989; Dundee, 1994). Other nonindigenous records documenting the spread of greenhouse frogs in Louisiana include Jefferson Parish (Dundee, 1994), Plaquemines Parish (Dundee, 1994; Boundy, 2004), Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge Parish (Platt and Fontenot, 1995), St. Bernard Parish (Boundy, 1998), St. John the Baptist Parish (Boundy, 1998), Lafayette Parish (Boundy, 2004), St. Tammany Parish (Elbers, 2007), Calcasieu Parish (Meshaka et al., 2009), and Terrebonne Parish (Liner, 2007).

Specimens have been collected from an isolated colony of E. planirostris in Gulfport, Harrison County, and another specimen from Starkville, Oktibbeha County, Mississippi (Dinsmore, 2004).

Eleutherodactylus planirostris has been introduced to Fairhope, Baldwin County, Alabama (Carey, 1982; also see Schwartz and Henderson 1991).

In Jefferson City, Cole County, Missouri, A. Hutton (personal communication 2001) discovered at least 40 juvenile Eleutherodactylus (apparently E. planirostris) living on the dirt floor beneath planting tables in a greenhouse of a commercial florist shop in 2001.

On 30 March 2004, a live E. planirostris was found in a bag of cypress mulch at the Detroit Zoo, Oakland County, Michigan, which had been shipped from a mulch packing plant in Trenton, Gilchrist county, Florida (Zippel et al., 2005). This bag had been exposed to freezing conditions for several weeks (Zippel et al., 2005).

A large, dense population of E. planirostris has been unintentionally introduced to the Tropical Rainforest Building of Tulsa Zoo, Tulsa, Tulsa County, Oklahoma (B. Olsen, personal communication 2002).

In Hawaii, greenhouse frogs have been introduced to the islands of Oahu, Hawaii Island (Big Island) (Kraus et al., 1999), Maui, and Kauai (Kraus and Campbell, 2002; Kraus and Thomas, 2009). Kraus and Campbell (2002) speculate that the original introductions probably took place in the early 1990s.

Populations of nonindigenous E. planirostris are found in Veracruz, Mexico (Schwartz, 1974; Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Flores-Villela, 1993; Smith and Smith, 1993), Honduras (McCranie et al., 2008), Panama City, Panama (Crawford et al., 2011), Jamaica (Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Crombie, 1999; Hedges, 1999; Powell et al., 2011), Grenada (Hedges, 1999), Caicos Islands, and the southern Bahamas (Great Inagua Island) (Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Powell et al., 2011), although the Grenada record is probably a mistake (Powell et al., 2011). Some authors list E. planirostris as indigenous to Caicos Islands (Frost, 1985; Powell et al., 1996).

An E. planirostris population was discovered in Tumon, Guam (Hurley, 2003).

Means of Introduction: The greenhouse frog is aptly named since it is usually introduced as a stowaway on imported tropical plants and landscaping materials (Neill, 1951; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999; Kraus and Campbell, 2002; Kraus in Hurley, 2003; Zippel et al., 2005), including plants shipped from Florida nurseries and Hawaii landscape shipments. This seems to be how it was introduced to Georgia (Winn et al., 1999), Louisiana (Dundee and Rossman, 1989; Meshaka et al., 2009), Mississippi (Dinsmore, 2004), Missouri (A. Hutton, personal communication 2001), Oklahoma (B. Olsen, personal communication 2002), Michigan (Zippel et al., 2005), Hawaii (Kraus et al., 1999; Kraus and Campbell, 2002), Guam (Kraus in Hurly, 2003), and in other nonindigenous localities .

Status: E. planirostris is well established wherever it has been collected (Duellman and Schwartz, 1958; King and Krakauer, 1966; Stevenson, 1976; Smith and Kohler, 1978; Ashton and Ashton, 1988; Moler, 1988; Bartlett, 1994; Dalrymple, 1994; McCoid and Kleberg, 1995; McCann et al., 1996; Butterfield et al., 1997; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999; Duellman and Sweet, 1999; Meshaka et al., 2004; Elliot et al., 2009; Kraus, 2009; Anonymous, 2010; Krysko et al., 2011; Meshaka, 2011). Undoubtedly greenhouse frogs eventually will be discovered in the rest of the counties in North Florida and the panhandle where it has not yet been recorded, but erroneously mapped in Meshaka (2011). They are invasive and gradually spreading further westward through the panhandle and north of Florida.

The E. planirostris in coastal Chatham County, Georgia, were clearly established and breeding when discovered (Winn et al., 1999). Jensen (2008) verifies that this species is established in Chatham County. Additional established coastal Georgia populations exist in Glynn and Camden Counties (Jensen, 2008). Greenhouse frogs are established in Lowndes and Thomas Counties, in noncoastal southern Georgia (Jensen, 2008). This species in spreading invasively and probably more widespread in Georgia than currently recorded (Jensen, 2008).

In Louisiana, E. planirostris is established and invasive (Dundee and Rossman, 1989; Dundee, 1994; Boundy, 1998, 2004; Conant and Collins, 1998; Elliott et al., 2009; Meshaka et al., 2009). They are spreading from their point of introduction in New Orleans.

In Mississippi, the colony in Harrison County is established, but the status of greenhouse frogs in Oktibbeha County is unknown (Dinsmore, 2004).

Eleutherodactylus  planirostris is established in southern Alabama (Carey, 1982; Kraus, 2008, 2009; Elliott et al., 2009). They probably will continue to spread throughout the Gulf States.

The populations of greenhouse frogs found in Cole County, Missouri, and Tulsa County, Oklahoma, are confined to indoors environments and do not represent true introductions to the ecosystem (A. Hutton, personal communication 2001; B. Olsen, personal communication 2002). The Missouri E. planirostris might not survive cold winter weather in the greenhouse if it is unheated; however, survival of the single Michigan individual in freezing conditions could indicate otherwise (Zippel et al., 2005). The Tulsa Zoo population in Oklahoma is a large, very dense population of frogs; they are so numerous they often wander into nearby offices located within the Tropical Rainforest Building (B. Olsen, personal communication 2002). Obviously some frogs might some day find their way outside the confines of this building and invade the surrounding park grounds, but cold winters may eradicate them. The Oakland County, Michigan, record represents an single individual, and not an established population (Zippel et al., 2005).

Eleutherodactylus planirostris is a well-established, invasive species on the Hawaiian islands of Kauai, Maui, Oahu, and Hawaii (Big Island) (Kraus et al., 1999; Kraus and Campbell, 2002; Elliott et al., 2009; Kraus, 2009; Kraus and Thomas, 2009). They may be more widespread within the Hawaiian Islands than currently realized, but have gone unnoticed due to their secretive habits and barely audible calls (Kraus and Campbell, 2002). A variety of methods are being used to monitor and eradicate these rapidly spreading frogs (Kraus et al., 1999; Beltz, 2002; Kraus and Campbell, 2002; Kraus and Thomas, 2009). Efforts to strictly legislate and eradicate nonindigenous herpetofauna in Hawaii have been met with some strident, self-serving resistance from individuals associated with the pet trade and amateur herpetoculture (Vivarium Staff, 1998; Walls, 1998). Measures to eradicate them or control their spread were not implemented in a timely fashion (Kraus and Campbell, 2002).

Nonindigenous greenhouse frogs are established in Veracruz, Mexico, Panama City, Panama, and the Caribbean localities of Jamaica, Caicos Islands, and Great Inagua Island of the southern Bahamas, but not Grenada (Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Flores-Villela, 1993; Crombie, 1999; Hedges, 1999; Kraus, 2009; Crawford et al., 2011; Powell et al., 2011). They are established on Guam (Hurley, 2003; Kraus, 2009).

Impact of Introduction: The impact of greenhouse frogs on indigenous ecosystems in Florida remains unclear, and may be further obfuscated by their long establishment in this state. Some of the concerns (see below) addressed by Kraus et al. (1999), and Kraus and Campbell (2002) for Hawaiian populations may have some validity in Florida, with the caveat that unlike Hawaii, Florida ecosystems have numerous species of native frogs and more diverse terrestrial fauna. Witz and Wilson (1991) found E. planirostris were burrow symbionts of Gopherus polyphemus, the gopher tortoise. On at least three occasions I have observed E. planirostris in Florida, sharing ground cover with indigenous Gastrophryne carolinensis, eastern narrow-mouthed toads (Somma, personal observation). The significance of these interactions is unknown.

The impact of E. planirostris in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi is unknown but the same concerns addressing populations in Florida may apply to these two states.

The nonindigenous greenhouse frogs found in Missouri and Oklahoma are indoors populations that might not survive if they escape confinement. The Michigan record was a single individual that had no impact.

Hawaiian populations of these insectivores are invasive and spreading rapidly in a state that has no native frogs (Kraus et al., 1999; Kraus and Campbell, 2002). Greenhouse frogs could potentially eat indigenous, endemic arthropods, including species of insects and spiders close to extinction (Kraus et al., 1999). This also could have a negative impact on indigenous insectivorous birds that may be forced to compete with E. planirostris for food (Kraus et al., 1999; Kraus and Thomas, 2009). Nutrient flow through the native food web may be disrupted, and E. planirostris may serve as a source of food for nonindigenous, invasive predators (Kraus, 1999; Kraus, 2009).

Similar problems may be caused by established greenhouse frogs in Guam where they may additionally provide a source of food for nonindigenous invasive populations of rats, mongooses, and brown tree snakes (Boiga irregularis) (Campbell and Kraus in Hurley, 2003).

The impact of E. planirostris in Veracruz, Mexico, Panama City, Panama, and the Caribbean localities of Jamaica, Caicos Islands, and southern Bahamas, remains entirely unexplored. Due to the similarity in fauna and habitat, so relatively close to their native range and ecology, they may present fewer problems on some of the Caribbean islands (Kraus et al., 1999).

Remarks: The taxonomy and nomenclature of E. planirostris has been reviewed or summarized by Wright and Wright (1949), Schwartz (1974), Frost (1985, 2000), Collins and Taggart (2002, 2009), Frost et al. (2006), and Heinicke et al. (2007, 2009). Frost et al. (2006) suggested placing E. planirostris in the genus Euhyas, but more recent evidence provided by Heinicke et al. (2007) argues against this. Of the four weakly described subspecies only one, E. p. planirostris, has nonindigenous populations (Schwartz and Henderson, 1991); Frost (2000) and Kraus (2008) do not recognize any subspecies. The natural history of E. planirostris has been studied or summarized by Deckert (1921), Goin (1947), Wright and Wright (1949), Dundee and Rossman (1989), Schwartz and Henderson (1991), and Dorcas and Gibbons (2008), and Elliott et al. (2009).

Greenhouse frogs are entirely terrestrial, secretive eleutherodactylids that prefer habitats with plenty of shelter such as moist leaf-litter, fallen logs, bark, rocks, chunks of coral, grass clumps, Gopherus polyphemus (gopher tortoise) burrows, flowerpots and potted plants, well-planted gardens, bags of mulch, and anthropogenic debris (C. Goin, 1947; O. Goin, 1955; Dundee and Rossman, 1989; Witz and Wilson, 1991; Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Zippel et al., 2005; Jensen, 2008; Elliott et al., 2009). In urban environments they may shelter in cracks and deep seams of cement sidewalks and porches (Somma, personal observation).  They feed on insects, other arthropods, and earthworms (Goin, 1947; Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Dorcas and Gibbons, 2008). While they are very adept at utilizing anthropogenic habitat around human dwellings, especially woodpiles, gardens and greenhouses, they easily invade indigenous ecosystems (Goin, 1947; Dundee and Rossman, 1989; Schwartz and Henderson, 1991; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999; Dorcas and Gibbons, 2008; Rödder and Lötters, 2010; Meshaka, 2011). The terrestrial eggs are deposited in moist sheltered sites, including planted flowerpots and bromeliad plants, and undergo direct development, skipping an aquatic tadpole stage (C. Goin, 1947; O. Goin, 1955; Dundee and Rossman, 1989; Schwartz and Henderson, 1991). Unlike many species of Eleutherodactylus, E. planirostris exhibits no parental care of its eggs (Townsend, 1996). Increased reproduction and dispersal may be facilitated by large storms such as hurricanes (Meshaka, 1993, 2001), and an apparent ability to shift niches at some localities (Rödder and Lötters, 2010). The terrestrial eggs of greenhouse frogs provide an additional means of allowing them to disperse as stowaways

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Author: Louis A. Somma

Revision Date: 11/1/2011

Citation Information:
Louis A. Somma. 2017. Eleutherodactylus planirostris. USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL.
https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=61 Revision Date: 11/1/2011


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