An invasive sharp-clawed frog has been confirmed in parts of South Florida that could outnumber native species.
Formally known as a tropical clawed frog, the small amphibian has protruding eyes, a flattened body and short claws attached to each limb.
While a frog with claws may sound surprising, scientists at the University of Florida say “ humans don’t have to worry about it, ” as the creature uses them to shred and tear apart prey – insects and other water vertebrae.
However, the invasive frog may have the potential to spread diseases that can affect native Florida amphibians.
Tropical clawed frogs are associated with tropical regions along the rainforest belt in sub-Saharan Africa, but how they got to the US remains a mystery.
An invasive sharp-clawed frog has been confirmed in parts of South Florida that could outnumber native species. Formally known as a tropical clawed frog, the small amphibian has protruding eyes, a flattened body and short claws attached to each limb
DailyMail.com has contacted the University of Florida for comment and has not yet received a response.
Christina Romagosa, associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of Florida (UF), said, “ The tropical clawed frog invasion represents yet another disruption to Florida’s aquatic ecosystems, particularly those in southern Florida, which are already fragile due to habitat destruction. , pollution, invasive species and diseases. ‘
Romagosa and her team sampled 43 bodies of water in the Tampa Bay area, of which only 22 turned out to be clawed frogs.
But this led them to hunt to determine what type of clawed frogs were spotted in the region.
Scientists performed CT scans and DNA analyzes on the clawed frogs to determine if they were tropical clawed frogs (left) or African clawed frogs (right)
In 2014, a resident of Riverview, just outside of Tampa, found non-native frogs on her property.
In response, Jeff Hill, a professor of fisheries and aquatic sciences at the UF / IFAS Tropical Aquaculture Lab (TAL) in nearby Ruskin, examined a number of ponds near the frogs and identified a nesting site at a small rainwater runoff pond.
Hill thought the species was the African clawed frog, but Ramogosa performed CT scans and DNA testing on the recently spotted frogs.
David Blackburn, with the Florida Museum of Natural History, was able to identify the specimens as either the tropical clawed frog or the western clawed frog.
Tropical clawed frogs are a generalist predator, and while it mainly eats aquatic invertebrates – namely insects – it often eats the eggs or tadpoles of other frogs.
These two species are remarkably similar, with a slight difference in body size, ”says Blackburn, curator of herpetology at the Florida Museum.
‘It can be difficult to distinguish them without the help of genetics or CT scans.
“This is an excellent example of how collaborations between different UF biologists can produce surprising things.”
Scientists have shared several concerns now that the clawed frog has made its way to Florida, mainly that it could spread deeper into the state and do so quickly.
If it multiplies, the frogs can deplete the food resources of native frogs.
And this species is also a generalist predator, and although it mainly eats aquatic invertebrates, it has been found to eat other frog eggs or tadpoles.
Colin Goodman, a PhD student at the University of South Florida, said: “ We know that the species we initially thought to be – the African clawed frog – has invaded many other areas, including France, Portugal, California, Chile, Italy and China. , among other things.’
Goodman also said that although the claws are sharp, they are too small to harm a human, which isn’t just the frog’s prey list either.
What is concerning, however, is that the creatures can spread disease to Florida native species.
Many fungal and viral pathogens adversely affect amphibians in the US.