Virgin Islands coqui (Eleutherodactylus schwartzi)

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Virgin Islands coqui fact file

Virgin Islands coqui description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAmphibia
OrderAnura
FamilyLeptodactylidae
GenusEleutherodactylus (1)

The Virgin Islands coqui is a tiny, little-known frog species found only in the British Virgin Islands in the West Indies. This enigmatic frog has yellowish-tan upperparts, with faint black stippling or mottling. A hazy, dark stripe extends along the sides of the body, and a dark bar runs through the eyes to the snout. The inside of the upper-legs are red to bright yellow, and the vent is white with a greenish tinge. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of this frog, however, is its large, conspicuous eyes, which have bright golden irises and dark, elliptical-shaped pupils (2). Like other frogs of the family leptodactylidae, the Virgin Islands coqui has a broad, flat head, a short body and elongated digits (3).

Also known as
Virgin Islands bo-peep.
Size
Female snout-vent length: up to 34 mm (2)
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Virgin Islands coqui biology

An enigmatic and elusive species, very little is known about the biology of the Virgin Islands coqui. Breeding males, however, are known to attract female mates with two-tone advertisement calls emitted from prominent positions near to the ground or on terrestrial bromeliads (1) (2). Once a female is encouraged to approach a male, the male frog sounds a courtship call consisting of one to six rapid notes (5). After breeding, the female lays the fertilised eggs on the leaf of a bromeliad, with miniature versions of the adults hatching directly from the eggs, meaning there is no tadpole stage (1).   

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Virgin Islands coqui range

The Virgin Islands coqui is restricted to the islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Great Dog in the British Virgin Islands in the West Indies (1). It was once also found on Saint John in the U.S. Virgin islands, but is now believed to be extinct there (1) (4)

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Virgin Islands coqui habitat

The Virgin Islands coqui is strongly associated with terrestrial bromeliads (flowering plants characterised by a rosette-shaped leaf arrangement) and is consequently found wherever these plants are, which is usually in dry scrub forests. It has been recorded up to altitudes of 227 metres (1).

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Virgin Islands coqui status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Virgin Islands coqui threats

Currently almost a quarter of all amphibian species on the British Virgin Islands are categorised as endangered, indicating that the islands’ unique 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 (6). As a result of these threats, the range of the Virgin Islands coqui has become highly fragmented, and there is an ongoing decline in the quality of its habitat. The small, distinct population on Great Dog is particularly vulnerable. The Virgin Islands coqui also appears to be declining with the spread of the predatory Cuban tree frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) (1). 

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Virgin Islands coqui conservation

A number of conservation recommendations have been made to protect the native fauna of the British Virgin Islands, including the creation of protected areas and minimising the impacts of development through the better enforcement of protective legislation. Increased monitoring efforts for amphibian populations may also be required given the potential for deadly diseases, such as the fungus chytridiomycosis, to break out on the island, especially as disease has been associated with dramatic amphibian declines on nearby islands (6). Additional study and protection of the Virgin Islands coqui population on Great Dog is a conservation priority for the species, while there is also a need to afford its habitat on Tortola and Virgin Gorda increased protection and control invasive predators (1) (6).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

To find out more about conservation in the British Virgin Islands, see:

For more information on amphibian conservation, see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Fertilisation
The fusion of gametes (male and female reproductive cells) to produce an embryo, which grows into a new individual.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2010)
    http://www.redlist.org/
  2. Schwartz, A. and Henderson, R.W. (1991) Amphibians and Reptiles of the West Indies: Descriptions, Distributions and Natural History. The University of Florida Press, Florida.
  3. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. U.S. Virgin Islands Division of Fish and Wildlife (September, 2010)
    http://fw.dpnr.gov.vi/wild/Docs/FinalPlan/3_3.pdf
  5. Ovaska, K.E. and Caldbeck, J. (1999) Courtship call of the frog Eleutherodactylus schwartzi from the British Virgin Islands. Journal of Herpetology, 33: 501-504.
  6. Perry, G. and Gerber, G.P. (2006) Conservation of amphibians and reptiles in the British Virgin Islands: Status and patterns. Applied Herpetology, 3: 237-256.
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Image credit

Virgin Islands coqui calling  
Virgin Islands coqui calling

© Kristiina Ovaska

Kristiina Ovaska
kovaska@shaw.ca

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