Cubans in Florida

With Fidel Castro’s health in serious decline the last few years, the media here in south Florida are waiting with bated breath to hear of the long-reigning leader of the island nation, and its communist government, to expire. Waves of human and animal exodus from the island have marked Florida, though. I discovered one in my garden this morning.According to Dorcas & Gibbons (Frogs and Toads of the Southeast, U of Georgia P, 2009), the Cuban Treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) was apparently already found in the Florida Keys in fairly great abundance in the 1930s, so this species’ invasion predates the establishment of the communist regime on the island.* It is one of the largest species in the tree frog family, and the only member of its genus to be found in Florida. It is also the largest treefrog in Florida, with females growing up to 6 inches. If you’ve seen our native Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea), you know how much larger a 6-inch frog can be.

Every time I’ve seen a Cuban Treefrog in the past, my opinion has been quite negative. They are pretty darn ugly: gray, washed-out, pasty-looking things:

But this morning’s frog was beautiful, a dark olive-green with bright yellow highlights around the eyes:

I wasn’t fast enough to run and get the camera, so I wasn’t able to show the brilliant green spots on its hindlegs that it displayed as it hung by one leg from the top of the watering pail, but trust me–they were spectacular. If you’re a real herpetologist, you can use the pattern and color of those markings to separate similar species.

Various other species of herptiles have invaded Florida; chief among them being the Green Iguana and Brown Anole. But despite all the hypeover-reaction and downright hysteria about how they’ll destroy the state, crowd out the native herpetofauna, etc., they generally arrive at an equilibrium before too long, and they become just another part of the landscape.

And this morning, I became a bit more reconciled to this invader from across the seas.

Just for fun, here’s a little gallery of some of the herptiles I’ve seen over the past few years in Florida: