Home | Amphibians | Herp Notes – Seagoing Frogs, Parthenogenic Snakes, and a Request for Your Observations

Herp Notes – Seagoing Frogs, Parthenogenic Snakes, and a Request for Your Observations

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 Flowerpot Snakefortune 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:




  1. avatar

    I have been catching Indo Pacific Gecko outside our house and keeping them to study. I have also been catching greenhouse frogs to study. Both are introduced species which successfully colonized due to their unique reproductive qualities, such as the frogs ability to skip tadpole stage and the Indo Pacific Gecko is another all female species (same as the flower-pot snake you mentioned) and I have been able to successfully had one of these geckos lay eggs. When the next one lay it eggs (which should be soon) I will be able to put the communal nesting theory to rest.

  2. avatar

    Hello Laura,

    Thanks so much for your interesting comment.

    The Indo Pacific gecko and its relatives are certainly in the same class as the flowerpot snake and greenhouse frogs when it comes to successfully colonizing new habitats.

    You raise an interesting point concerning communal nesting, thanks for bringing it to the attention of our readers. I would be very interested to hear about your results…please also let me know how you have the geckos set up, and a little about their population density in your area, if you don’t mind.

    I’ve always wondered about the details of supposed communal nesting. Years ago I established a group of tokay geckos in a huge (1/2 acre) zoo exhibit occupied by various Southeast Asian birds and mammals. The lizards settled in well, and I soon noticed that many laid eggs in the same general area, despite thousands of square feet of wall and tree trunk space. This seemed odd as female tokay geckos can be quite territorial. I believe they chose this one area because it was inaccessible to the magpies, squirrels and gibbons that might otherwise eat the eggs (or, in the case of the gibbons, throw them at the tapirs and visitors!). Perhaps, as happens with other animals, territorial boundaries broke down because there was such an abundance of food (three species of roaches and other insects in this case).

    Just my theory…please let me know your own thoughts and how things progress with your geckos.

    Thanks again, Best regards, Frank

  3. avatar

    I live in Rotonda west Fla and have dug those snakes up a few times in the back yard while trying to plant some shrubs and boy are they fast. they move thru the sand at lightning speed. It took me a while to figure out what they were as they didn’t have them in Mass where I always used to garden. Thanks for the article Frank . Aliray

    • avatar

      Nice to here from you, thanks. Interesting how wides[pread they have become….Mass is too cold, but they sometimes beccome established in large greenhouses, indoor flower farms in the NE. Enjoy, best, Frank

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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