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Herpetological Field Reports – Non-Native Predators and Prey in Florida

Cuban TreefrogMany interesting amphibian and reptile field research reports are published in professional journals such as Copeia, Herpetologica and Herpetological Review, and are not available on the internet.  Unfortunately, such journals are usually quite expensive (if well-worth the price).  From time to time I’ll provide summaries of interesting articles that I come across.  Today’s report is drawn from Autumn, 2010 publications and covers 2 unusual feeding records.  The observations were made in Florida and, as might be expected, both predator and prey (Cuban Treefrog, Spectacled Caiman, Walking Catfish) were non native species!

Cuban Treefrog, Osteopilus septentrionalis

Cuban Treefrogs are large as treefrogs go, and will tackle anything that might (or might not!) fit into their cavernous jaws.  I released several in a greenhouse at the Bronx Zoo, and was once startled to find one swallowing a Green Anole that exceeded itself in length.  But an observation made recently in Florida put my own to shame.

Cuban Treefrogs, native to Cuba, the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas, are well established in Florida.  In Jupiter, Florida, a 2.4 inch-long Cuban Treefrog was found (on a sidewalk, no less!) with a Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus) measuring over 7 inches in length protruding from it’s mouth.  The frog was unable to completely swallow the snake, but held onto it for 40 minutes, after which the observer took a photo and departed.

Spectacled Caiman, Caiman crocodylus

Walking CatfishSpectacled Caiman have been recorded in 7 US states but are breeding only in Florida.  Southeast Asia’s Walking Catfish (Clarius batrachus) has been established in Florida since the 1960’s, when a number apparently “walked” away from fish dealers there.  While visiting a turtle breeder in the state several years ago, I was astonished to see scores of Walking Catfishes surface for the trout chow he tossed into his outdoor turtle ponds.  They are most interesting, but have played havoc with South Florida’s aquatic ecosystems.

But they have enemies…a Spectacled Caiman that appeared ill was collected in the Everglades National Park.  It died soon after, and upon autopsy an adult Walking Catfish was found lodged in its throat.  The feisty beast had flared both of its sharp pectoral fins, and each had pierced the Caiman’s esophagus.  Based on my observations of many types of catfishes (the group is a great favorite of mine), I can imagine that similar fates have befallen a number of other species.

Spectacled CaimanIn reading some related articles I learned that catfish-related deaths have been reported in quite large animals.  In Puerto Rico, at least 20 Brown Pelicans have been killed by non-native Sailfin Catfishes.

Further Reading

Natural History of Spectacled Caimans in Florida

Natural History of Cuban Treefrogs in Florida


Spectacled Caiman image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Curtis Clark


  1. avatar

    Hey Frank–is the report of the Cuban Treefrog eating a ringneck available online, or has it been published in Herp Review yet?

  2. avatar

    Never mind–I see that you found it in Fall 2010 issue. Pls disregard my question.

  3. avatar

    Do you still have the picture of the Cuban treefrog eating a ringneck?

    • avatar

      Hello Rachel

      Thanks for your interest.

      Unfortunately, the photo was published in Herpetological Review and is not posted on line. This article has a shot of one consuming a Green Treefrog and some great info.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  4. avatar

    Thanks for the response. I used the picture for my invasive species speech in my technical presentations class.

    • avatar

      Hello Rachel

      My pleasure, glad it was useful.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  5. avatar

    Thanks for the article Frank. Living here in Fla It is amazing how many non natives are now making Fla home

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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