While working in a large tropical bird exhibit at the Bronx Zoo some years back, I was startled to come across tiny frogs hidden among the leaf litter. I was able to identify them as Greenhouse frogs, Eleutherodactylus planirostris (an apt name, it turns out). These 1.4 inch-long Cuban natives have been transported around the world, hidden among plants and soil. Their eggs are laid on land, and the tadpole stage is passed within the egg, so the frogs readily establish themselves in greenhouses and other warm, humid habitats. It always pays to (discretely) poke around in walk-through zoo exhibits and such places – you never know.
The greenhouse frog belongs to the family Eleutherodactylidea, which contains over 800 species. Recent research at Pennsylvania State University revealed that all types currently found in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean arrived there by rafting on vegetation over the open seas from South America, rather than across an ancient land bridge, as was previously assumed. Apparently, individuals of a single species landed in Mexico, and others (again, 1 species) in Central America, and then each evolved into the large number of species found in these places today.
Another world traveler, the Flowerpot snake (or Brahminy blind snake), Ramphotphlops braminus, also utilizes a unique reproductive strategy to establish new populations in far-flung habitats. All individuals of this species are female and reproduce via parthenogenesis, so only 1 animal is needed to start a colony. I’ve had the good fortune of running into this odd creature, as well as “banana” spiders, rattlesnakes and others, in unexpected surroundings – more on that next time.
An informative article on this frog’s history in Florida, along with a photo, is posted at: