Florida already has a long list of invasive species, which includes Burmese pythons, Nile crocodiles, poisonous toads, “River Monsters,” herpes monkeys, meningitis snails, and cute little capybara. So, it shouldn’t be that shocking that the Sunshine State now has a clawed frog from Western Africa.
Researchers with the University of Florida recently confirmed that a “breeding site” of invasive frogs discovered at a Riverview stormwater runoff pond in 2014 was initially misidentified, and is actually hosting Western clawed frogs, which are distinguishable by their protruding eyes, flattened bodies, and small talons attached to each limb.
While Western clawed frogs aren’t a direct threat to humans, researchers say the frogs have the potential to spread disease, and compete with native frog species for food sources, which can disrupt aquatic ecosystems.
Of course, the name is certainly menacing, but the frog’s claws are pretty small and are used to “shred and break apart larger prey.” The frogs are almost entirely aquatic, and feed primarily on aquatic invertebrates, like bugs, but will often eat other frogs’ eggs or tadpoles.
“The Tropical clawed frog invasion represents yet another disturbance to Florida’s aquatic ecosystems, particularly those in southern Florida, which are already vulnerable due to habitat destruction, pollution, invasive species and disease,” said Christina Romagosa, a UF/IFAS research associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation in a statement.
As of now, it’s unclear how the Western clawed frogs got here, and how widespread they are in Florida. But it's worth noting that researchers sampled 43 water bodies in the Tampa Bay area, and found Western clawed frogs in 22 of them.
According to UF, the state of Florida spends roughly $45 million a year on managing its growing invasive species problem.
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