Meet the common coquí

Common coquí. Photo by California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

I am once again traveling (so this post may also be a little short)! This week I am in San Juan, Puerto Rico. And let me tell you, it is absolutely lovely.

One of my favorite parts so far has been getting the chance to see new wildlife. Because Puerto Rico is an island, there is a lot of endemic plants and animals. There aren’t a lot of native mammals (a common characteristic of islands), but there are 18 endemic birds and the highest percent of endemism among amphibians and reptiles in the world (along with the rest of the Caribbean).

Today I want to tell you about one of the most famous animals in Puerto Rico: the coquí. The unofficial symbol of Puerto Rico, coquí is the common name for several species of frogs in the Eleutherodactylus genus. There are 17 different species of coquí in Puerto Rico and today I’ll be focusing on the most common one: the common coquí, Eleutherodactylus coqui.

  • What’s in a name?
    • If you’ve ever been to Puerto Rico, you’ve heard the coquís. These little frogs (only 1.5 inches long!) are SUPER loud. They basically start singing around dusk and continue throughout the night. Their calls are also the basis of their name: they sing “CO – KEE.” And when you hear the coquí, you can be sure it’s a male. Only the males sing!
  • The importance of a call
    • Besides being a naming convention, coquí calls play a huge role in their behavior, with different syllables having different roles. The “CO” part is used to repel males and establish territories. The “KEE” syllable attracts females. What I think is super cool is the fact that the brains of males and females react to the syllables differently. Male auditory neurons respond better to the “CO;” female auditory neurons respond better to the “KEE.” Sex differences in the auditory system! Isn’t that cool??
  • Settling disputes
    • Males will also use their songs to settle disputes. When one male enters another’s territory, they will enter a singing duel. These duels can last for minutes at a time where the two males are just singing at each other. Who ever stops singing first is considered the loser and just leaves. No need for violence, just songs!
  • No webbed toes??
    • Picture a frog. Did it have webbed toes? While a lot of frogs do have webbed toes, the common coquí does not. Instead, they have toes! Sticky pads at the end of their toes let them climb trees and plants. This plays out in their life history. Coquís don’t really swim; instead they lay their eggs on palm tree leaves and other plants.
  • Taking care of baby
    • Since the eggs are just hanging out on leaves, they are vulnerable to predators. The solution? The male frogs will stick by the eggs and guard them from snakes and snails until they hatch after a month. They will also bring water to rehydrate the eggs if they appear to be drying up.
    • One more small cool fact: coquí young don’t go through a tadpole phase! Remember, they don’t live in water; they live in the trees. As a result, the coquís develop from egg to little frog. Pretty cool!

Coquís are so cute! I’ve really liked listening to them at night, and I hope you enjoyed learning about them.

P.S. Visit Puerto Rico if you have a chance! I love it!


California Herps


National Wildlife Foundation

Animal Diversity Web

Welcome to Puerto Rico

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