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Herpetofaunal Surveys at Fort Matanzas National Monument

Frogs

Southern Toad – Bufo terrestris

frogs and toads

frogs and toads

This is the common toad found in backyards all across Florida. In Fort Matanzas National Monument during the day they hide in the leaf-litter in the live oak hammock coming out at night to feed on insects, spiders and other invertebrates.

Greenhouse Frog – Eleutherodactylus planirostris

frogs and toads

frogs and toads

The greenhouse frog is native to Cuba and the Bahamas. It was first reported in south Florida in the 1870's, presumably having made the trip from Cuba to Key West on shipments of produce some years earlier. Since then it has spread throughout the Florida peninsula and west into the panhandle. In Fort Matanzas National Monument, the greenhouse frog hides during the day in the leaf litter, under fallen palm fronds, and among the ferns in the live oak hammock and in the slash pine and red bay woodlands. Males give a faint musical chirp to attract females. Unlike most frogs and toads, the greenhouse frog does not have a tadpole stage. It lays its eggs in the moist leaf litter. The tadpole-like embryo develops inside the egg and hatches as a miniature adult with a tiny tail that is quickly adsorbed.

Eastern Narrowmouth Toad – Gastrophryne carolinensis

frogs and toads

frogs and toads

Narrowmouth toads are easily identified by their pointed noses and the fold of skin across the top of the head. They burrow in the leaf litter in the live oak hammock and in the slash pine and red bay woodland. The weak bleating call of the males attracts the females to the breeding ponds following summer rains. They feed primarily on ants.

Green Tree Frog – Hyla cinerea

frogs and toads

frogs and toads

The green treerog is found in the saw palmettos and in holes in the oak trees around the permanent freshwater pond in the live oak hammock in Fort Matanzas National Monument. It is bright green with a sharply defined white stripe on the upper lip and along the side of the body. During the summer, males gather on vegetation around ponds where their loud 'quank', 'quank' chorus attracts females. Their large toepads make climbing easy.

Barking Tree Frog – Hyla gratiosa

frogs and toads

frogs and toads

The barking treefrog is the largest native treefrog in Florida. It has dark spots on the granular skin of its back. As its name implies, its call is a loud barking 'tonk'. During rainy weather the barking treefrog lives high in the trees in the Fort Matanzas National Monument live oak hammock. During dry weather it seeks shelter in the moist leaf litter or burrows in the soil. It breeds in the spring and summer in permanent ponds.

Squirrel Tree Frog – Hyla squirella

frogs and toads

frogs and toads

In Florida, the squirrel treefrog is often called the rain frog because of the quack-like call it gives before and after spring and summer rains. Body color typically is green, but may be brown or gray, and usually has a poorly defined white stripe along the upper lip and side. It is abundant in the saw palmettos and cabbage palms in the live oak hammock, in the wax myrtle and cabbage palm forest and in the slash pine and red bay woodland in Fort Matanzas National Monument. It also hides between the cedar shingles on the roofs of the buildings. It is a foracious predator on insects. It is more tolerant of salt spray than most other treefrogs, which allows it to cross salt marshes and populate islands like Rattlesnake Island.

Cuban Tree Frog – Osteopilus septentrionalis

frogs and toads

frogs and toads

As its name implies, this giant treefrog is native to Cuba. It was first discovered in Key West in 1931, apparently having hitchhiked from Cuba on vegetable or fruit imports. Its spread north is the result of opportunistic rides on potted plants and garden supplies and their deliberate release by fanciers. In Fort Matanzas National Monument, the Cuban treefrog hides beneath the base of the fronds on cabbage palms in the live oak hammock and on the crevices in the walls of the buildings. They emerge at night to catch insects and other small prey. It in turn is caught and eaten by racers foraging through the cabbage palms.

Southern Leopard Frog – Rana sphenocephala

frogs and toads

frogs and toads

The southern leopard frog gets its name from the large dark spots between the two light-colored stripes down either side of its back. It is found around the permanent freshwater pond in the live oak hammock in Fort Matanzas National Monument. Following heavy rains, when the ground is wet, it will move across country to populate new habitats. During the day it hides among the vegetation at the water's edge, or sits on the bank in the sun. At night it feeds on insects and whatever small animals it can catch. It is a favorite food of southern racers.

Spadefoot Toad – Scaphiopus holbrookii

frogs and toads

frogs and toads

Eastern spadefoot toads are the most abundant amphibian in Fort Matanzas National Monument. The horny black 'spade' on the hindfoot enables the spadefoot to burrow rapidly into the soil. During the day they remain out of sight and secure in their burrows, but on nights following a summer rain, the ground under the live oaks and bay trees in the live oak hammock is covered with spadefoot toads as they come out to search for insects and other invertebrate prey. They breed in almost any temporary or permanent pond following torrential downpours. Their eggs hatch and in a few weeks or even days the tadpoles metamorphose into tiny toads that swarm through the forest. The vertical pupils and brass-colored irises give spadefoots the most beautiful eyes of any Florida frog or toad.

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