Date of this Version
Published in Francis, Robert A., editor. Handbook of Global Freshwater Invasive Species. Earthscan, London, 2012.
History of Eleutherodactylus coqui Introduction
Eleutherodactylus coqui (hereafter, the coqui) is a nocturnal, terrestrial frog endemic to the island of Puerto Rico (Figure 26.1). There are 16 Eleutherodactylus species endemic to the island, but the coqui is the most widespread and abundant. While larger than most other frogs in Puerto Rico, the coqui is a small frog (maximum snout–vent length (SVL) for males of 50mm and for females of 63mm; Joglar, 1998), that differentiates itself from other Eleutherodactylus species by using the full spectrum of vertical forest habitats and by its distinctive two note mating call, which sounds like ‘ko-kee’ and gave the frog its common name.
The coqui has established on a number of Caribbean islands to which it is not native, including Culebra and Vieques, Puerto Rico (Rivero and Joglar, 1979), St Thomas and St Croix, Virgin Islands (MacLean, 1982) and the Dominican Republic (Joglar, 1998). The coqui was also introduced to Florida in the early 1970s (Austin and Schwartz, 1975; Wilson and Porras, 1983), but has not been reported there since 2000 (Meshaka et al, 2004).
Most of the information on the coqui as an invasive has been obtained in Hawaii, and so Hawaii is the focus of this chapter. The coqui was introduced to Hawaii in the late 1980s via infested nursery plants (Kraus et al, 1999) (Figure 26.1), and, consistent with this, it first appeared in and around nurseries. There were two separate introductions: one to the island of Hawaii (Big Island) and one to Maui (Maliko Gulch), which, at least genetically, both originated near San Juan, Puerto Rico (Velo-Antón et al, 2007; Peacock et al, 2009). The coqui experienced a severe bottleneck when it was introduced, and all measures of genetic diversity are much higher in Puerto Rico than Hawaii (Peacock et al, 2009).