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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, May 18, 2001

Potentially harmful frog found on Maui

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui Bureau

KAHULUI, Maui — A population of Caribbean frogs that biologists say has the potential to harm Hawai'i's fragile environment was found yesterday on Maui for the first time.

The tiny Eleutherodactylus planirostris, or greenhouse frog, was identified by state wildlife biologist Fern Duvall after he received a call from a landscape gardener working in the resort area of Wailea.

"We've been looking (to intercept) this frog for years,'' Duvall said. "And now here it is."

Duvall said he saw hundreds of the fleet-footed frogs in the oceanfront landscaping and believes they are spread across the resort area. One manager reported first seeing the frogs several months ago, said Duvall, who captured five for identification.

At least three populations of the greenhouse frog have been identified on the Big Island and two are known on O'ahu.

Hawai'i has no native frogs, and biologists fear the animals may prey on native insects and spiders, spread plant diseases and increase the population of rats and mongooses by serving as a food source.

The greenhouse frog grows up to 1.5 inches long and is about half the size of its cousin, Eleutherodactylus coqui, which has been discovered across the Islands in more than 100 places. The call of the greenhouse frog is much more quiet than the noisy coqui, and it is much harder to find, Duvall said.

These frogs arrived in the Islands in plants imported from the Caribbean, where they are native, and they likely are being spread as hitchhikers in nursery materials.

In their native Caribbean islands, the frogs live in populations of up to 8,000 an acre. Females can produce more than 200 eggs a year, with each frog reaching sexual maturity in just eight months.