The Cuban Tree Frog & Extinction

The Cuban Tree Frog & Extinction


What does the Cuban Tree Frog & Extinction have to do with each other?  It just so happens that the Cuban Tree Frog is an invasive species.  Additionally, many scientists consider invasive species to be a significant cause of the massive extinction among the world’s animals.

The Cuban Tree Frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis), shown in the feature image, is native to Cuba and other Caribbean Islands.  Unfortunately, the species made their way to the United States mainland and specifically Florida in the 1920s aboard cargo ships.  Their presence is central and unfortunate in that they play a role in the much more significant and tragic picture.  Conveniently, the University of Florida, located near the photography site, documents and researches their presence thoroughly.  Luckily for his article, the pictured frog appeared at the home of Roger Chilson near Gainesville, Florida.  Roger does an excellent job of attracting birds and small urban animals to his home in Keystone Heights in North Central Florida.  Likewise, he has a unique photographic collection of the birds and urban wildlife that visit his home site. Likewise, those photographs included the ones of the frog illustrated in this article

The Bigger Picture & Background:

The “bigger picture” referenced above is related to the rapidly escalating disappearance of living diversity on the earth today.  A significant number of people are familiar with the fate that species like the Passenger Pigeon, the Great Auk and the West African Rhino met in relatively recent times.  Perhaps the near tragic conclusion of the American Bison is a more familiar story.  What many people fail to realize is that, according to the Center of Biological Diversity, over 1,000 vertebrates have totally disappeared from the earth in the last 500 years.  The World Wildlife Fund tells us that since 1970 the world’s population of vertebrates is down fifty percent.

Ironically, many of the people are content to live common lives with little concern for our rapidly changing world that we live in.  Perhaps that has more to do with the formal and complex explanations that scientific research provides.  Fortunately for the public, authors like Elizabeth Kolbert are able to present dull scientific facts in a more appealing manner.  Ms. Kolbert, a writer for the New Yorker, published “The Sixth Extinction” in 2014, and the book quickly became a New York Times bestseller.  In her book, Ms. Kolbert does a riveting job of describing five times over the last billion years when the earth has undergone mass extinctions.  Additionally, she does a masterful job of correlating the current loss of living diversity with those previous extinctions.  The obvious conclusion that the book foretells is obvious; however, the real significance of her book is the public exposure to quite a critical issue.

Ms. Kolbert’s Book “The Sixth Extinction” is available on Amazon.

Back to the Cuban Tree Frog & Extinction:

The tedious research from most scientific studies suggests that the number one cause for the current loss of living diversity is the direct impact of man. Man has destroyed vast areas of original forest for the purpose of development. Unfortunately, financial profit is given priority over living diversity among plants and animals. However, in second place, right behind the direct impact of man, is the impact of invasive species. As human technology has advanced and the world has gotten much smaller, invasive species have become a more critical issue.

Invasive species being the second leading cause of our massive extinction rates is what puts the Cuban Tree Frog on center stage.  Yes, the Cuban Tree Frog is an invasive species, and their impact on living diversity on the Florida Peninsular is easily recognized.  According to the University, the Cuban Frog will prey upon minimally five other domestic frog species.

The frog stands out uniquely among other Florida representatives; however, identification can be difficult due to different characteristics. Where the frog above presents darker blemishes on its skin, some will show streaks or be dull in color. Additionally, the frogs do change colors. Likewise, the frogs appear to have expanded toe tips that perhaps make it easier to cling to different surfaces. The toe characteristics can be clearly seen in the featured image.

The Photographer:

So the Cuban Tree Frog made its way from Cuba by a cargo ship in the 1920s.  Slowly the species expanded their range North Florida by the turn of the 21st Century.  Eventually, they expanded their range to the Keystone Heights location where Roger Chilson lives. There he captured the photographs illustrated in this post.  The collection of these photographs seems to have been a matter of circumstances.

Nevertheless, the vast selection of photos that Mr. Chilson has collected over the years of urban wildlife and, especially birds, is not by chance.  Many of them are on display on his web site at  Roger has one of the most bird-friendly home sites in North Central Florida, and we look forward to displaying more of his work and especially how he creates a bird-friendly home location. Roger uses a Canon PowerShot in good daylight to capture the illustrated photographs.

Additional Attribution:

The University of Florida is an excellent resource for information on the Cuban Tree Frog, and a good landing page is: From the University of Florida site more links to additional information and research is available.

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