The coqui frog, one of Puerto Rico’s most emblematic creatures, is experiencing significant changes in its vocalizations due to climate change, according to recent research by Peter Narins, a scientist at UCLA.
The coqui frog is known for its unique two-note call, “co-qui,” which resonates across the island each night. Although male coqui frogs use these calls to establish their territory and deter rivals, scientists like Narins are able to analyze them to better understand the impact of climate change on these small amphibians.
In his talk titled “Climate change drives frog call change in Puerto Rico: Predictions and implications,” Peter Narins will discuss the alterations he and his team have observed in coqui frog calls over a 23-year period.
The presentation is scheduled for 2:40 p.m. Eastern U.S. time on Monday, May 8, in room Chicago F/G, as part of the 184th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, held at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile Hotel from May 8-12.
Narins’ research began more than two decades ago when he recorded coqui frog sounds along the slopes of El Yunque Peak in Puerto Rico. He and his team discovered that the calls of the coqui frog varied depending on elevation.
Due to their high sensitivity to temperature changes, these frogs exhibit differences in size and call characteristics based on their habitat. Frogs dwelling in colder mountain peaks tend to be larger than their counterparts in warmer valleys, a fact that is reflected in their vocalizations.
“Coqui that produced short, high-pitched calls at high rates lived near the base of the mountain, while the calls of animals living near the mountain’s peak were longer, lower-pitched, and repeated less frequently,” Narins explained.
Two decades later, Narins, along with his colleague Sebastiaan Meenderink, returned to El Yunque Peak to find that the calls of every frog had become higher in pitch.
Meenderink said, “In order to record a call with certain characteristics we had to move to a slightly higher altitude. It was as if all the animals had moved up the mountain.”
This apparent upward shift in the frogs’ habitat corresponds to the temperature changes brought about by climate change. As global temperatures continue to rise, coqui frogs may be forced to retreat further up the mountain until they run out of viable living space.
Meenderink commented on the potential consequences of this shift, stating, “For now, the consequences are not dire. A barely perceptible change in frog body size and call has little impact on the environment.”
“However, if left unabated, the temperature increase will eventually cause a collapse of the coqui population, which will be catastrophic for the Puerto Rican ecosystem.”
This research highlights the importance of understanding and mitigating the effects of climate change on vulnerable species like the coqui frog.
As we continue to witness these changes, it becomes increasingly urgent to address the root causes of global warming and work towards a sustainable future for all living beings.
The coqui frog (Eleutherodactylus coqui) is a small tree frog native to Puerto Rico. Named after its distinctive two-note call, which sounds like “co-qui,” this amphibian is an iconic symbol of Puerto Rican culture and wildlife. Here’s what you need to know about the coqui frog:
Coqui frogs are small, typically ranging from 1 to 2 inches in length. They vary in color from shades of brown to gray or green, sometimes with patterns on their skin, which helps them blend in with their surroundings.
Coqui frogs are primarily found in Puerto Rico, but they have also been introduced to other locations such as the Dominican Republic, Hawaii, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In their natural habitat, they prefer moist environments, such as forests, gardens, and agricultural areas.
The male coqui frog’s unique two-note call serves several purposes. It is used to establish territory, ward off rivals, and attract females for mating. The first note, “co,” alerts other males of their presence, while the second note, “qui,” attracts females.
Unlike most frogs, the coqui frog does not have a tadpole stage. Instead, females lay eggs on moist surfaces, such as leaves or in crevices, and the male guards them until they hatch into small, fully-formed frogs. This direct development helps them bypass the vulnerability of a tadpole stage in their life cycle.
Coqui frogs are nocturnal and primarily insectivorous, feeding on a variety of insects and other small invertebrates, such as ants, spiders, and mites.
The coqui frog’s natural predators include birds, snakes, and larger frogs. In addition to predation, the coqui frog faces threats from habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. Climate change, in particular, has been shown to affect their vocalizations and potentially their distribution, as they are sensitive to changes in temperature.
In areas where the coqui frog has been introduced, such as Hawaii, it has become an invasive species, causing ecological problems due to its rapid reproduction and predation on native insects. Their loud calls have also been a nuisance for some residents in these areas.
Overall, the coqui frog is an important part of Puerto Rican culture and a fascinating subject of scientific study. The species offers insights into the effects of climate change on wildlife and serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting and preserving delicate ecosystems.