Eleutherodactylus coqui
Eleutherodactylus coqui
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Eleutherodactylus coqui Thomas, 1966

Common name: Coqui

Synonyms and Other Names: Puero Rican coqui, coquí común

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: A small, brown or gray-brown, arboreal frog, 33 to 57 mm (1.25-2.25 in) long (Behler and King, 1979; Conant and Collins, 1998; Joglar, 1998; Rivero, 1998; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999).  Coqui from Florida populations tend to average slightly smaller, typically not exceeding 44.4 mm (1.75 in) (Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999).  Unlike the nonindigenous greenhouse frog, Eleutherodactylus planirostris, eyes are gold, golden-brown, or brown, rather than red, and has toe disks (toepads) for climbing (Conant and Collins, 1998; Joglar, 1998; Rivero, 1998).  May superficially resemble indigenous Floridian hylids (treefrogs).  Dorsal pattern varies considerably ranging from no pattern, to one or two broad cream stripes, v-shaped marks, spots, botches, or an ill-defined pale band or “M” between the shoulders (Conant and Collins, 1998; Joglar, 1998; also illustrated in Bartlett, 1994; Rivero, 1998; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999; Powell, 1999; Thomas, 2006, and described in Powell et al., 1998).  Call of male coqui is a rapid, loud “ko-KEE” (Bartlett, 1994; Conant and Collins, 1998; Rivero, 1998; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999; Thomas, 2006), hence its common name.  A recording of the call of the coqui is available on a CD by Rivero (1998) and online (Thomas, 2006).

Size: snout-vent length of 33-57 mm

Native Range: Native to Puerto Rico in a wide variety of habitats and elevations (Schwartz and Thomas, 1975; Schwartz and Henderson, 1985, 1991; Joglar and Burrowes, 1996; Powell et al., 1996; Stewart, 1996; Joglar, 1998; Rivero, 1998; Hedges, 1999; Henderson and Powell, 1999; Powell, 1999; Thomas, 1999).

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Puerto Rico &
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Guam auto-generated map
Guam Saipan
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: Nonindigenous, established populations occur on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (Schwartz and Thomas, 1975; Schwartz and Henderson, 1985, 1991; Conant and Collins, 1998; F. Kraus, personal communication 2002).  The coqui is also established in the Dominican Republic, Culebra, and Vieques (Joglar, 1998; Joglar and Rios-López, 1998). Coqui are recorded from South Miami and Homestead, Miami-Dade County, Florida (Austin and Schwartz, 1975; Smith and Kohler, 1978; Wilson and Porras, 1983; Loftus and Herndon, 1984; Ashton and Ashton, 1988; Bartlett, 1994; Darlymple, 1994; McCoid and Kleberg, 1995; McCann et al., 1996; Conant and Collins, 1998; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999; King, 2006). In Hawaii coqui are found on Maui, Hawaii Island (Big Island), Kauai, and Oahu (McKeown, 1998; Kraus et al., 1999; Kraus and Campbell, 2002; Thomas, 2006; Woolbright et al., 2006).  (Note: some specimens identified by Kraus et al. [1999] as E. martinicensis are actually E. coqui [Kraus and Campbell, 2002].) The record for New Orleans, Louisiana, (first mapped in Conant and Collins, 1991) is erroneous (Dundee, 1991; Dundee in Frost, 2000).

Means of Introduction: Most introductions are probably the result of horticultural and landscaping imports; many plants provide shelter for both the adult frogs and their eggs (Austin and Schwartz, 1975; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999; Kraus et al., 1999; Kraus and Campbell, 2002; Thomas, 2006; Woolbright et al., 2006), although some releases in Hawaii are intentional (Kraus et al., 1999; Kraus and Campbell, 2002; Woolbright et al., 2006; F. Kraus, personal communication 2002).

Status: Populations in the U.S. Virgin Islands remain established (Schwarz and Henderson, 1991; Conant and Collins, 1998).

The erroneous Louisiana record is based on two pet coqui, both males, kept in a greenhouse for 2-3 years until killed off by a winter freeze (Dundee, 1991).  They never escaped confinement, and certainly did not produce an established population; yet coqui are still listed as occurring in New Orleans (Conant and Collins, 1998). 

Populations in Miami-Dade County, Florida, persist and are limited to areas in and around a few greenhouses (Loftus and Herndon, 1984; Ashton and Ashton, 1988; Bartlett, 1994; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999; Meshaka et al., 2004).  Those coqui outside the greenhouses tend to die off during winter freezes and those once found at the Fairchild Tropical Gardens are now suspected extirpated (Wilson and Porras, 1983; Ashton and Ashton, 1988; Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999).  It is not known if the Florida populations are self-sustaining or replenished through new horticultural plantings (Bartlett and Bartlett, 1999); thus, Butterfield et al. (1997) question listing E. coqui as an established, nonindigenous species.  (Also see Meshaka et al. 2004). 

Numerous populations of coqui in Hawaii are established, and highly invasive; a variety of methods are being used to monitor and eradicate these rapidly spreading frogs (Kraus et al., 1999; Kraus and Campbell, 2002; Thomas, 2006; Woolbright et al., 2006).  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 (McKeown, 1998; Vivarium Staff, 1998; Walls, 1998).

Impact of Introduction: Impact of E. coqui in the U.S. Virgin Islands remains unknown, but due to the similarity in fauna and habitat, so relatively close to their native range and ecology, Kraus et al. (1999) expect few problems. The few Florida populations are clearly noninvasive, and lead a tenuous existence.  Hawaii has no native frogs.  Hawaiian populations of these insectivores are invasive and spreading rapidly (Kraus et al., 1999; Woolbright et al., 2006). Coqui 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. coqui for food (Kraus et al., 1999; Thomas, 2006).  Nutrient flow through the native food web may be disrupted, and coqui may serve as a source of food for nonindigenous, invasive predators (Kraus, 1999; Woolbright et al., 2006). Woolbright et al. (2006) found no effective predators of coqui in Hawaii and only recorded a single instance of predation by the rodent, Rattus rattus. Anthropocentric concerns include the disruption caused by their loud calls. In Hawaii residents have lost sleep, tourists have lodged complaints with hotels, and residents may have difficulty selling infested property or experience weaker property values (Kraus et al., 1999; Kraus and Campbell, 2002; Thomas, 2006). Woolbright et al. (2006), recorded sound pressure levels of calling male coqui in eastern Hawaii Island (Big Island) up to 73 dB. Further anthropocentric concerns are discussed in detail by Kraus and Campbell (2002).

In their native Puerto Rico, populations in cloud forests are on the decline, while those populations found in other habitats remain stable (Joglar and Burrowes, 1996).

Remarks: The taxonomy and taxonomic placement of coqui is reviewed in Frost (2000) and Frost et al. (2006). Over the years E. coqui in their native range have been the subject of a wide variety studies dealing with ecology, behavior and reproduction (Townsend and Mogler, 1987; Woolbright and Stewart, 1987; Townsend, 1989; Woolbright, 1989; Stewart, 1995, 1996; Fogarty and Vilella, 2002; Beard et al., 2003; reviewed in Henderson and Powell, 1999).

These arboreal frogs are highly fecund and can exist in fairly large densities (Stewart, 1995; Joglar, 1998; Kraus et al., 1999; Kraus and Campbell, 2002). Near the Hilo area of eastern Hawaii Island (Big Island), population densities of E. coqui are three times higher than those in their native Puerto Rico (Woolbright et al., 2006). Coqui may reach the ground from their arboreal perches by parachuting (Stewart, 1985).  To attract a mate, males call to females with the greater mating advantage going to the males with the highest call rates (Townsend and Stewart, 1986a; Lopez, 1996). Calls also are used in aggressive encounters (Stewart and Rand, 1991, 1992).  Fertilization is internal; development is direct with well-developed neonate frogs hatching from eggs in vegetation without any aquatic tadpole stage (Townsend et al., 1981; Townsend and Stewart, 1985, 1986b; Townsend, 1996).  Males brood eggs in an elevated, sheltered spot such as a cavity or a bromeliad (Taigen et al., 1984; Townsend et al., 1984; Townsend, 1986, 1996).  In Hawaii, E. coqui supplement their shelter sites and nesting sites by making extensive use of subterranean passages and galleries within the porous lava substrate (Woolbright et al., 2006).

There is current concern that E. coqui may be transported to Guam and become established in the same fashion as the closely related greenhouse frog, E. planirostris (Hurley, 2003).  See the species account titled “Eleutherodactylus planirostris (Cope, 1862)” on this website.

Everman and Klawinski (2013) examined the population genetics and disperal patterns of Coqui populations on Hawai'i Island, finding no relationship between genetic and geographic distance and suggesting that the jump-dispersal pattern exhibited by this species is accomplished through human-mediated assistance.

References: (click for full references)

Ashton, R. E., Jr., and P. S. Ashton. 1988. Handbook of Reptiles and Amphibians of Florida. Part Three. The Amphibians. Windward Publishing, Inc., Miami. 191 pp.

Austin, D. F., and A. Schwartz. 1975. Another exotic amphibian in Florida, Eleutherodactylus coqui. Copeia 1975(1):188.

Bartlett, R. D. 1994. Florida’s alien herps.  Reptile & Amphibian Magazine (27):56-73, 103-109.

Bartlett, R. D., and P. P. Bartlett. 1999. A Field Guide to Florida Reptiles and Amphibians. Gulf Publishing Company, Houston. 280 pp.

Beard, K. H., S. McCullough, and A. K. Eschtruth. 2003. Quantitative assessment of habitat preferences for the Puerto Rican terrestrial frog, Eleutherodactylus coqui. Journal of Herpetology 37(1):10-17.

Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York. 743 pp.

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Conant, R., and J. T. Collins. 1991. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians. Eastern and Central North America. Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 450 pp.

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Dundee, H. A. 1991. When is an introduction not an introduction? Herpetological Review 22(4):122.

Everman, E., and P. Klawinski. 2013. Human-facilitated jump dispersal of a non-native frog species on Hawai'i Island. Journal of Biogeography 40:1961-1970. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jbi.12146/abstract.

Fogarty, J. H., and F. J. Vilella. 2002. Population dynamics of Eleutherodactylus coqui in Cordillera Forest reserves of Puerto Rico. Journal of Herpetology 36(2):193-201.

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Joglar, R. L., and N. Rios-López. 1998. Geographic distribution: Eleutherodactylus coqui (Puerto Rican coqui). Dominican Republic: Districto Nacional. Herpetological Review 29(2):107.

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Author: Louis A. Somma and Matthew Neilson

Revision Date: 9/23/2013

Citation Information:
Louis A. Somma and Matthew Neilson. 2017. Eleutherodactylus coqui. USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL.
https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=60 Revision Date: 9/23/2013

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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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2017]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [3/30/2017].

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