FROGS OF THE BAHAMAS -
First published in the 'Nassau Guardian'.
||It was damp and humid on that September night in 1969. Underneath powerful
arc lights at Miami International Airport, the two large wooden
packing cases were still dripping from the recent rain as they
awaited loading for a flight to West End, Grand Bahama.
The night insects attracted by the brilliant lights made a fine supper
for the several small green frogs perched atop the crates.
Later, long after the lights had been extinguished and as the
darkness was replaced by the first light of dawn,
the frogs retreated between the wooden slats of the packing
cases to avoid the coming glare of the Florida sun. They were
still hiding there when the cases were offloaded at West End a
few hours later. The latest immigrants had arrived!
The above scenario may not be exact in its detail, but it certainly
happened. The Squirrel Tree Frog, Hyla squirela
was the latest addition to the fauna of The Bahama Islands.
|The other amphibians have, we must assume, made a similar entry. It was
believed that the Pig Frog, the Southern Leopard Frog and the
Narrow-Mouthed Toad have made similar entries to the
the late seventies, the Narrow-Mouthed Toad was known only
from Grand Bahama, where it was assumed it had been introduced
in grass from Florida. Its known range southwards was extended
when I discovered several of them in my garden near West Bay
Street while pulling weeds around the walls of my house. The
first Narrow-Mouthed Toad, an animal I had never seen
before, now sits somewhere on a shelf in the Smithsonian
Institution in Washington; the first Gastrophryne
carolinensis recorded from the island of New Providence!
This insignificant little frog is easily overlooked. Growing to no more
three-quarters of an inch, it is dark brown in colour and runs
rather than jumps when it is disturbed, resembling in the
process a Cockroach more than an amphibian.
In size and habitat is a true little Bahamian frog. Known in
the USA as the Greenhouse Frog, it has on these islands (as
far as I am aware) no specific local name, probably because of
its retiring habits and the fact that it is seldom seen.
tiny amphibians have undoubtedly been in The Bahamas for many
thousands of years as a new sub-species has populated these
islands. Known to scientists as Eleutherodactylus planirostris
rogersi, it is an animal well adapted to an environment
where little fresh water is found.
than producing a free-swimming tadpole, Eleutherodactylus
lays its eggs in damp places where the tadpoles undergo rapid
metamorphosis within the egg and hatch out as a miniature
version of the adult frog.
The Pig Frog is aptly
named, for its croak is loud and guttural, reminiscent of the
noise made by a pig. Although this frog is frequently heard, it is
seldom seen. It lives in ponds and ditches where there are
frequently tall reeds and deep places where it can dive
quickly to safety.
The Pig Frog spends
much of its time resting on the surface with only its
eyes out of the water awaiting unwary insects that it
catches with its long tongue. When it hears the slightest
noise, it dives as deep as it can with a distinct plopping
sound. However carefully the observer approaches all he or she
sees are a few ripples as the frog disappears beneath the
The Pig Frog is
closely related to the American Bullfrog, a species, which I
am told, was introduced to Coral Harbour and Lyford Cay during
the time that both of those resorts were thriving and there
was a demand for frog legs in the various restaurants catering
for the winter residents.
species is the Southern Leopard Frog, a species that has
apparently been introduced to Grand Bahama.
||When we think of frogs
In The Bahamas, we usually are thinking of the common Cuban
Tree Frog Osteopilus septemtrionalis. This is
the frog that sits near lights and on windows at
night. As its name suggests it originated in Cuba, but has
been In The Bahamas for a very long time. It Is by far the
commonest Bahamian frog and is the predominant food of the
Bahamas Boa or ‘Chicken Snake’.
Its own way the Cuban tree frog has been colonising those
territories to the north of the Bahamas, even as the Squirrel
Tree Frog, and the Pig and Leopard Frogs have been spawning
their way south. The Cuban tree frog was first recorded in Key
West in 1961, but has now spread as far north as Palm Beach
people are repelled by contact with frogs, and I must admit
that even I - an enthusiastic advocate of indigenous fauna, have been
surprised when a slimy frog I didn’t see has jumped
onto my neck or head as I passed beneath a Banana tree or
opened a sliding door upon which the frog was taking its
there is a definite basis for this fear of frogs (other than
from the physical
revulsion caused by
sudden slimy contact by some unknown animal form). The mucus
secreted by the skin of frogs may cause an intense irritation
to the eyes and may even cause temporary blindness.
may not excite many people, and they certainly repel many
more. But they are an important part of our natural heritage.
They provide much of the diet of Bahamian snakes and many
birds, and are important themselves as they consume
thousands of insects each and every year.
as we may not like frogs, they are very much a part of
nature’s plan, and they deserve their place within the
fabric of our natural resources.