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Florida’s Introduced Nonindigenous and Invasive Amphibians and Reptiles: Part 2 of a 3-part Series on Biological Invasions in Florida

This article was first written and posted in 2015. We decided to dust it off and repost it. Enjoy!

This article discusses the species of introduced herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles) of Florida’s terrestrial and aquatic habitats along with a general discussion of the possible effects of biological invasions on native wildlife and habitats.  The first part of this three-part series was on introduced fishes in the state.  The final part of the series will be on introduced mollusks (bivalves and gastropods, or clams and snails & slugs) of Florida. 

As of this writing, at least 110 species of nonindigenous herpetofauna (colloquially called ‘herptiles’ for short) representing 34 families have been introduced to Florida (Exhibits 1 and 4).  Of the species introduced to Florida, about 43% are now considered to have established breeding populations in one or more counties (Exhibit 2).  This amounts to 47 established herptile species in Florida as of this writing.  Both urban and natural areas of Florida are affected by these biological invaders.  For example, the first reticulated python (Python reticulatus) observed in Florida was during the 1980s, where it was seen living under a house in Miami.  This species has since been observed and (or) collected in several other areas of Florida, although it is not known whether the species has established self-sustaining breeding populations (Exhibit 3).   Lizards are the most successful group and account for the majority (72%) of established herptiles in Florida today.  The list in Exhibit 4 below contains the species known to have been introduced, although it is important to note that new species are introduced on a regular basis in Florida, so the list is constantly expanding.  Most introduced herptiles are native to the tropics (Wilson and Porras 1983).  The fact that Florida’s climate is subtropical is a major reason why many introduced species have successfully established themselves in the state.  Nonindigenous herptiles have been introduced via a variety of mechanisms:

  • Stowaways in shipments of ornamental plants or produce
  • Intentional or accidental release by pet dealers or owners
  • Intentional or accidental release from zoological parks
  • Intentional release by government agencies to combat nuisance organisms

photo 1 Herptiles.PNG

Exhibit 1.  Percentages per group of introduced species of amphibians and reptiles in Florida today.  Sources: Florida Museum of Natural History (http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/herpetology/florida-amphibians-reptiles/checklist-atlas/), USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species online database (http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/SpeciesList.aspx?group=Amphibians&state=FL&Sortby=1), Krysko et al. (2011), J.C.Seitz unpublished data.

photo 2 herptiles.PNG

Exhibit 2.  Percentages per group of introduced species of amphibians and reptiles that are known to have established self-sustaining breeding populations in Florida today.  Sources: Florida Museum of Natural History (http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/herpetology/florida-amphibians-reptiles/checklist-atlas/), USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species online database (http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/SpeciesList.aspx?group=Amphibians&state=FL&Sortby=1), Krysko et al. (2011), J.C.Seitz unpublished data.

photo 3 herptiles.PNG

Exhibit 3.  Several sightings and captures of the reticulated python (Python reticulatus) have occurred in Florida counties since the late 1980s, including Broward, Collier, Manatee, Miami-Dade, and Pinellas counties. 

The red pin-shaped symbols above represent the location of a sighting or capture.  The black numbers surrounded by red denote locations where more than one sighting or capture was recorded.  Modified from the UF Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation (http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/snakes/reticulatedpython.shtml).

Wilson and Porras predicted in the early 1980s that southern Florida would eventually be overrun with introduced exotic wildlife.  The current trends in established and spreading introduced species suggest that these authors may have been right. 

Reducing the effects of invasive nonindigenous species is an important part of restoration and management efforts in natural areas of Florida, United States, and worldwide, as these species cause significant stress to native ecosystems (Adams and Steigerwalt 2010) and biological invasion is widely viewed as a major cause of the reduction in native plant and animal diversity (Elton 1958, Wilcove et al. 1998).  Invasive species are known to affect most natural areas of the United States (Villazon 2009) and worldwide (Sala et al. 2000).

It should go without saying that the intentional introduction of any nonindigenous species, whether it be a plant or animal and regardless of size or assumed innocuousness, should never be attempted.  The reasons are many and the costs can be severe, both in terms of biological effects and economic impacts.  Nonindigenous species introduced to new areas have the capacity to explode in numbers and outcompete native species for limited resources such as food, water, and shelter.  Native species are at a competitive disadvantage because they have not had time to evolve defense mechanisms that would otherwise allow them to successfully compete against the introduced species.  The competition between native and nonindigenous species can result in the extinction of native species, the spread of diseases and parasites, displacement of whole communities, and may even cause physical changes to the environment. 

Exhibit 4.  Nonindigenous amphibians and reptiles recorded in Florida.

Scientific Name

Common Name

Locality Records

Current Status

ANURA

FROGS & TOADS

 

 

BOMBINATORIDAE

FIRE-BELLIED TOADS

 

 

Bombina orientalis

Oriental Fire-bellied Toad

Broward Co.

Unknown

BUFONIDAE

AMERICAN TOADS

 

 

Atelopus zeteki

Panamanian Golden Frog

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Duttaphrynus melanostictus

Southeast Asian Toad

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Rhaebo blombergi

Columbian Giant Toad

Broward Co. (1963)

Failed

Rhinella marina

Cane Toad

Southern Florida, portions of central and northern Florida

Established (southern FL)

Unknown (elsewhere)

ELEUTERODACTYLIDAE

RAINFROGS

 

 

Eleutherodactylus coqui

Coqui

Miami-Dade Co.

Established

Eleutherodactylus planirostris

Greenhouse Frog

Throughout most of Florida

Established (throughout)

Eleutherodactylus portoricensis

Forest Coqui

Miami-Dade Co. (1964)

Collected

HYLIDAE

TREEFROGS

 

 

Litoria caerulea

Australian Green Treefrog

Broward, Collier, & Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

Osteopilus septentrionalis

Cuban Treefrog

Throughout most of Florida

Established (most of FL)

Pachymedusa dacnicolor

Mexican Leaf Frog

Miami-Dade Co. (1964)

Failed

Pseudacris sierra

Sierran Chorus Frog

Hillsborough & Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

HYPEROLIIDAE

SEDGE AND BUSH FROGS

 

 

Afrixalus fornasini

Fornasini's Spiny Reed Frog

Broward Co.

Failed

MICROHYLIDAE

NARROWMOUTH TOADS

 

 

Kaloula pulchra

Malaysian Painted Frog

Broward Co.

Unknown

PIPIDAE

TONGUELESS FROGS

 

 

Hymenochirus boettgeri

Zaire Dwarf Clawed Frog

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Xenopus laevis

African Clawed Frog

Brevard, Hillsborough, & Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

AMPHIUMIDAE

AQUATIC SALAMANDERS

 

 

Amphiuma tridactylum

Three-toed Amphiuma

Broward Co.

Unknown

SALAMANDRIDAE

TRUE SALAMANDERS AND NEWTS

 

 

Cynops orientalis

Oriental Fire-bellied Newt

Broward & Sumter Co.

Unknown (Broward Co.)

Collected (Sumter Co.)

Cynops pyrrhogaster

Japanese Fire-bellied Salamander

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens

Red-spotted Newt

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Pachytriton labiatus

Paddle-Tail Newt

Broward Co.

Failed

TESTUDINES

TURTLES & TORTOISES

 

 

BATAGURIDAE

BATAGURID TURTLES

 

 

Ocadia sinensis

Chinese Stripe-necked Turtle

 Alachua Co. (1972)

Eradicated

Rhinoclemmys pulcherrima

Central American Ornate Wood Turtle

Manatee Co.

Failed

Rhinoclemmys punctularia

Spot-legged Wood Turtle

Miami-Dade Co.

Established (Miccosukee Indian Reservation)

Collected (Parrot Jungle Trail, Jungle Island)

CHELIDAE

SOUTH AMERICAN SIDE-NECKED TURTLES

 

 

Chelus fimbriatus

Matamata

Broward Co.

Failed

Platemys platycephala

Twist-necked Turtle

Collier Co.

Collected

EMYDIDAE

POND TURTLES

 

 

Chrysemys dorsalis

Southern Painted Turtle

Alachua & Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

Chrysemys picta

Western Painted Turtle

Jackson, Miami-Dade, & Orange Co.

Unknown (Jackson Co.)

Failed (Miami-Dade Co.)

Collected (Orange Co.)

Glyptemys insculpta

Wood Turtle

St. Johns Co.

Failed

Graptemys barbouri

Barbour's Map Turtle

Leon Co.

Collected

Graptemys ernsti

Escambia Map Turtle

Orange Co.

Unknown

Graptemys ouachitensis

Ouachita Map Turtle

Miami-Dade & Palm Beach Co.

Collected (Miami-Dade Co.)

Unknown (Palm Beach Co.)

Graptemys pseudogeographica

False Map Turtle

Brevard, Columbia, Gilchrist, & Miami-Dade Co.

Failed (Miami-Dade Co.)

Unknown (elsewhere)

Trachemys dorbigni

Brazilian Slider

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Trachemys scripta callirostris

Columbian Slider

Miami-Dade & Monroe Co.

Failed (Miami-Dade Co.)

Unknown (Monroe Co.)

Trachemys scripta elegans

Red-eared Slider

Throughout most of Florida

Established (throughout)

Trachemys scripta scripta

Yellow-bellied Slider

Broward, Lee, & Miami-Dade Co.

Established (Lee Co.)

Unknown (Broward & Miami-Dade Co.

Trachemys stejnegeri malonei

Inagua Slider

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

KINOSTERNIDAE

MUD & MUSK TURTLES

 

 

Kinosternon scorpioides

Scorpion Mud Turtle

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Staurotypus salvinii

Pacific Coast giant musk turtle

Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

Pelusios subniger

East African Black Mud Turtle

Miami-Dade Co.

Collected

PELOMEDUSIDAE

AFRICAN SIDE-NECKED TURTLES

 

 

Podocnemis lewyana

Magdalena River Turtle

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Podocnemis sextuberculata

Six-tubercled River turtle

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Podocnemis unifilis

Yellow-spotted River Turtle

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

TESTUDINIDAE

LAND TORTOISES

 

 

Chelonoidis denticulata

Yellowfoot Tortoise

Collier Co.

Collected

TRIONYCHIDAE

SOFTSHELL TURTLES

 

 

Apalone spinifera

Spiny Softshell

Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

CROCODYLIA

CROCODILES & ALLIGATORS

 

 

ALLIGATORIDAE

ALLIGATORS

 

 

Caiman crocodilus

Spectacled Caiman

Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, & Seminole Co.

Established (Broward & Miami-Dade Co.)

Unknown (elsewhere)

Paleosuchus palpebrosus

Cuvier's Smooth-fronted Caiman

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Paleosuchus trigonatus

Schneider's Smooth-fronted Caiman

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

CROCODYLIDAE

CROCODILES

 

 

Crocodylus niloticus

Nile Crocodile

Hendry & Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

Mecistops cataphractus

African Slender-snouted Crocodile

Miami-Dade Co.

Failed

SQUAMATA

AMPHISBAENIANS, LIZARDS, & SNAKES

 

 

CORYTOPHANIDAE

HELMET LIZARDS

 

 

Basiliscus vittatus

Brown Basilisk

Nine counties in southern FL

Established (Broward, Collier, Glades, Indian River, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, & St. Lucie Co.)

Unknown (elsewhere)

IGUANIDAE

IGUANAS

 

 

Ctenosaura pectinata

Mexican Spinytail Iguana

Broward & Miami-Dade Co.

Established (Miami-Dade Co.)

Unknown (Broward Co.)

Ctenosaura similis

Black Spinytail Iguana

Nine coastal counties in southern FL

Established (most coastal counties in southern FL)

Unknown (elsewhere)

Iguana iguana

Green Iguana

Throughout coastal southern FL and along Lake Okeechobee, isolated areas elsewhere in FL

Established (many coastal counties in southern FL)

Unknown (northern & central FL)

PHRYNOSOMATIDAE

NORTH AMERICAN SPINY LIZARDS

 

 

Phrynosoma cornutum

Texas Horned Lizard

Spottily distributed throughout FL

Established (Duval Co. & western panhandle coastal areas)

Unknown (elsewhere)

POLYCHROTIDAE

ANOLES

 

 

Anolis chlorocyanus

Hispaniolan Green Anole

Broward & Palm Beach Co.

Established (Broward Co.)

Unknown (Palm Beach Co.)

Anolis cristatellus

Puerto Rican Crested Anole

Broward & Miami-Dade Co.

Established (Miami-Dade Co.)

Unknown (Broward Co.)

Anolis cybotes

Largehead Anole

Miami-Dade, Broward, & Martin Co.

Established (Miami-Dade Co.)

Unknown (Broward & Martin Co.)

Anolis distichus

Bark Anole

Most of coastal southern FL

Established (most of coastal southern FL)

Anolis equestris

Knight Anole

Most of coastal southern FL, spottily distributed in inland counties

Established (most of coastal southern FL)

Anolis garmani

Jamaican Giant Anole

Miami-Dade Co.

Established (Miami-Dade Co.)

Anolis porcatus

Cuban Green Anole

Miami-Dade & Monroe Co.

Possible hybridization with A. carolinensis (Miami-Dade & Monroe Co.)

Anolis sagrei

Brown Anole

Throughout peninsula and in at least 6 counties in panhandle

Established (most of FL)

Anolis trinitatis

St. Vincent Bush Anole

Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

TROPIDURIDAE

LAVA LIZARDS

 

 

Leiocephalus carinatus

Northern Curlytail Lizard

15 counties in peninsular FL

Established to unknown throughout

Leiocephalus schreibersii

Red-sided Curlytail Lizard

Broward, Charlotte, & Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

AGAMIDAE

AGAMID LIZARDS

 

 

Agama agama

African Rainbow Lizard

9 counties in peninsular FL

Established to unknown throughout

Calotes cf. versicolor

Variable Bloodsucker

Broward & St. Lucie Co.

Unknown (Broward Co.)

Established (St. Lucie Co.)

Leiolepis bellinana

Butterfly Lizard

Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown (Miami-Dade Co.)

CHAMAELEONIDAE

CHAMELEONS

 

 

Chamaeleo calyptratus

Veiled Chameleon

Alachua, Collier, Lee, & Hendry Co.

Unknown (Alachua & Collier Co.)

Established (Hendry & Miami-Dade Co.)

Furcifer oustaleti

Oustalet’s Chameleon

Miami-Dade Co.

Established (Miami-Dade Co.)

SPHAERODACTYLIDAE

NEW WORLD GECKOS

 

 

Gonatodes albogularis

Yellowhead Gecko

Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, & St. Lucie Co.

Likely established (Monroe Co.)

Failed (Broward, Miami-Dade, & St. Lucie Co.)

Sphaerodactylus argus

Ocellated Gecko

Monroe Co.

Established

Sphaerodactylus elegans

Ashy Gecko

Miami-Dade & Monroe Co.

Established (Miami-Dade & Monroe Co.)

GEKKONIDAE

WALL GECKOS

 

 

Gekko badenii

Golden Gecko

Broward Co. (Hollywood)

Unknown

Gekko gecko

Tokay Gecko

Spottily distributed between FL Keys north to Tallahassee

Established (spottily between FL Keys to Tallahassee)

Hemidactylus frenatus

Common House Gecko

Broward, Lee, Miami-Dade, & Monroe Co.

Established (Broward, Lee, Miami-Dade, & Monroe Co.)

Hemidactylus garnotti

Indo-Pacific House Gecko

Throughout southern, central, & northern FL peninsula; a few counties in panhandle

Established (throughout peninsula)

Unknown (panhandle)

Hemidactylus mabouia

Tropical House Gecko

Throughout southern FL, also parts of central and northern FL

Established (southern FL, parts of central and northern FL)

Hemidactylus platyurus

Asian Flat-tailed House Gecko

Alachua, Broward, Lee, Miami-Dade, & Pinellas Co.

Established (locally in vicinity of reptile dealerships)

Hemidactylus turcicus

Mediterranean Gecko

Throughout FL

Established (throughout)

Lepidodactylus lugubris

Mourning Gecko

Lee, Miami-Dade, & St. Lucie Co.

Unknown

Phelsuma grandis

Madagascar Giant Day Gecko

Broward, Lee, Monroe, & Palm Beach Co.

Established (Monroe & Palm Beach Co.)

Unknown (Broward & Lee Co.)

PHYLLODACTYLIDAE

PHYLLODACTYLID GECKOS

 

 

Tarentola annularis

Ringed Wall Gecko

Lee, Leon, Broward, & Miami-Dade Co.

Eradicated (Leon Co.)

Unknown (elsewhere)

Tarentola mauritanica

Moorish Gecko

Broward Co.; possibly Lee & Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

TEIIDAE

WHIPTAILS

 

 

Ameiva ameiva

Giant Ameiva

Broward, Collier, Miami-Dade, & Monroe Co.

Established (Broward, Collier, Miami-Dade, & Monroe Co.)

Aspidoscelis motaguae (formerly Cnemidophorus motaguae)

Giant Whiptail

Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown, possibly established (Miami-Dade Co.)

Cnemidophorus lemniscatus complex

Rainbow Whiptail

Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown, possibly established (Miami-Dade Co.)

Tupinambis merianae

Argentine Giant Tegu

Southern FL, spottily recorded in central and northern FL

Established (Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, & Polk Co.)

Unknown (elsewhere)

SCINCIDAE

SKINKS

 

 

Chalcides ocellatus

Ocellated Skink

Pasco & Broward Co.

Established (both counties)

Eutropis multifasciata

Many-lined Sun Skink

Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

Trachylepis quinquetaeniata

African Five-lined Skink

St. Lucie Co.

Unknown

VARANIDAE

MONITORS

 

 

Varanus albigularis

White-throated Monitor

Miami-Dade, Monroe, Osceola, & Palm-Beach Co.

Unknown

Varanus doreanus

Blue-tailed Monitor

Indian River Co.

Unknown

Varanus exanthematicus

Savannah Monitor

Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Leon, Marian, Miami-Dade, Orange, Polk, Sarasota, & Seminole Co.

Unknown

Varanus jobiensis

Peach-throated Monitor

Palm Beach & Polk Co.

Unknown

Varanus niloticus

Nile Monitor

Southern FL, parts of central and northern FL

Established (Broward, Lee, Miami-Dade, & Palm Beach Co.)

Unknown (elsewhere)

Varanus salvator

Water Monitor

Alachua, Broward, Pinellas, & St. Johns Co.

Unknown

Varanus salvadorii

Crocodile Monitor

Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown

ACROCHORDIDAE

WORT SNAKES

 

 

Acrochordus javanicus

Javan File Snake

Broward & Miami-Dade Co.

Established (Miami-Dade Co.)

Unknown (Broward Co.)

BOIDAE

BOAS

 

 

Boa constrictor

Boa Constrictor

Southern FL, parts of central and northern FL

Established (Miami-Dade Co. at Charles Deering Estate)

Unknown (elsewhere)

Eunectes murinus

Green Anaconda

Collier & Osceola Co., possibly Monroe Co.

Collected (Collier & Osceola Co.)

Unknown (Monroe Co.)

Eunectes notaeus

Yellow Anaconda

Collier, Miami-Dade, & Monroe Co.

Collected (Monroe Co.)

Unknown (Collier & Miami-Dade Co.)

PYTHONIDAE

PYTHONS

 

 

Python bivittatus

Burmese Python

Southern FL, parts of central and northern FL

Established (Broward, Collier, Hendry, Miami-Dade, Monroe, & Palm Beach Co.)

Unknown (elsewhere)

Python regius

Ball Python

Collier Co.

Unknown

Python reticulatus

Reticulated Python

Broward, Collier, Manatee, Miami-Dade, & Pinellas Co.

Unknown

Python sebae

Northern African Rock Python

Miami-Dade & Sarasota Co.

Established: Miami-Dade Co.

Unknown: Sarasota Co.

COLUBRIDAE

COLUBRID SNAKES

 

 

Erpeton tentaculatus

Tentacled Snake

Broward Co.

Failed

TYPHLOPIDAE

BLINDSNAKES

 

 

Ramphotyphlops braminus

Brahminy Blindsnake

Central & southern FL, spottily distributed in northern FL

Established (southern, central, portions of northern FL)

Unknown (elsewhere)

Sources: Florida Museum of Natural History (http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/herpetology/florida-amphibians-reptiles/checklist-atlas/), USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species online database (http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/SpeciesList.aspx?group=Amphibians&state=FL&Sortby=1), Krysko et al. (2011), J.C.Seitz unpublished data.

Sources:

Adams, C.R. and N.M. Steigerwalt.  2010.  Research Needs and Logistic Impediments in Restoration, Enhancement, and Management Projects: A Survey of Land Managers. Publication ENH1161 [online resource].  Environmental Horticulture Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.  Accessed 11/21/10 at: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep423.

Elton, C.S.  1958.  The Ecology of Invasions by Animals and Plants.  Methuen and Co., Ltd., Strand, London.

Florida Museum of Natural History.  2014.  Checklist & Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Florida [online resource].  Accessed 02/24/15 at http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/herpetology/florida-amphibians-reptiles/checklist-atlas/.

Krysko, K.L., K.M. Enge, P.E. Moler.  2011.  Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Florida.  Project Agreement 08013, report submitted to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Tallahassee, FL.

Sala, O.E. F.S. Chapin, J.J. Armesto, E. Berlow, J. Bloomfield, R. Dirzo, E. Huber-Sanwald, L.F. Huenneke, R.B. Jackson, A. Kinzig, R. Leemans, D.M. Lodge, H.A. Mooney, M. Oesterheld, N.L. Poff, M.T. Sykes, B.H. Walker, M. Walker, and D.H. Wall.  2000.  Global biodiversity scenarios for the year 2100.  Science 287:1770–1774.

U.S. Geological Survey.  2015.  NAS – Nonindigenous Aquatic Species [online resource].  Accessed 03/03/15 at http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/CollectionInfo.aspx?SpeciesID=963&State=FL.

Villazon, K.A.  2009.  Methods to Restore Native Plant Communities after Invasive Species Removal: Marl Prairie Ponds and an Abandoned Phosphate Mine in Florida.  MS thesis, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.

Wilcove, D.S., D. Rothstein, J. Dubow, A. Phillips, and E. Losos.  1998.  Quantifying threats to imperiled species in the United States. Bioscience 48:607–615.

Wilson, L.D. and L. Porras.  1983.  The Ecological Impact of Man on the South Florida Herpetofauna.  The University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Special Publication No. 9, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.

 

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