A medium-sized, pale grey to light brown frog, the red-eyed coqui (Eleutherodactylus antillensis) is a relatively indistinct amphibian except for its large, conspicuous eyes with light red irises and elliptical-shaped pupils (2)(3). This frog may also be distinguished by the black-spotted or marbled pattern of the thighs and the presence of a fine dark line behind the eyes (2). The underparts are white and the upperparts may have faint dusky markings (4). The red-eyed coqui has a very angular, broad, flat head, a short body, and small pads on the long digits (4)(5).
Active at night, the red-eyed coqui feeds primarily on insects (3). It can be heard calling from low vegetation, usually hidden amongst fallen leaves, from dusk until dawn, all the while emitting a “churee-churee” vocalisation with no pause between the notes. On damp evenings it may also call from low bushes and branches (3)(4). During the day the red-eyed coqui takes refuge under grass roots, loose bark of trees, rocks, logs or in tarantula burrows (3).
To attract a mate, the male red-eyed coqui calls from prominent perches, and once mated, the female frog lays a clutch of 24 to 42 eggs under a thin layer of damp leaf litter or soil (2)(7). Miniature versions of the adults hatch directly from the eggs, meaning that, unusually for a frog, there is no tadpole stage, and it is possible that the adult frogs temporarily guard the hatchlings as they develop (1)(2). The red-eyed coqui feeds primarily on insects (3).
The red-eyed coqui is native to the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and the Puerto Rican Islands, including Puerto Rico itself where it occurs almost continuously across the island excluding only the highest peaks (1)(2). It was also introduced to Panama City, Panama, in the late 1960s where it established in urban parks, before colonising gardens and pastures outside the city in the 1980s (6). In its native range, the species occurs from sea level up to around 1,200 metres (1).
The red-eyed coqui is typically found in wooded or forested areas, including dry forests, and is particularly abundant in open, disturbed habitats, such as open forests and pasture (1)(2). In Panama, it may be found in urban areas, residential gardens and vacant land (1).
In the absence of any major threats to its survival, the red-eyed coqui is not considered to be threatened with extinction. On Puerto Rico, the largest island inhabited by the red-eyed coqui, forest habitat is actually increasing, while relatively large tracts of suitable habitat remain throughout the species’ range (1). In the British Virgin Islands, however, almost a quarter of all amphibian species are categorised as endangered, suggesting the islands’ fauna is facing a wealth of threats. Habitat degradation and conversion to developments for tourism, human settlements and road construction are particularly severe problems, while predation from introduced mammals, such as rats and mongoose, also threatens many native species (8). It is not clear what impact these threats are having on the red-eyed coqui population there, but it is thought to be declining with the spread of the Cuban tree frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) which preys upon the species (1)(8).
Although not the target of any known conservation measures, the red-eyed coqui and its habitat is afforded protection in a number of reserves, including the Virgin Islands National Park (1)(4). On the British Virgin Islands, a number of conservation recommendations have been made to protect the native fauna, including the creation of protected areas and minimising the impacts of development through the better enforcement of protective legislation (8). Increased monitoring efforts for amphibian populations may also be required given the potential for deadly diseases to break out on the islands, especially the fungus chytridiomycosis which has been associated with dramatic amphibian declines on nearby islands, such as on Puerto Rico (8)(9).
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