Tree frogs are more often heard than seen on Saba. Their nocturnal habits make them rare to see by day unless you disturb them. You might spot them in damp areas sleeping in plant pot bottoms, under leaves or of course in trees. These same areas are also where you can find clutches of eggs. Like other species in the Eleutherodactylus genus, Saba's frog does not require water for a tadpole stage of development--instead they reproduce directly so that froglets hatch from the egg without passing through a free tadpole stage. Females have been known to guard their clutches until they hatch at which time foraging begins immediately, including the froglets preying on each other.
The Caribbean Islands (or West Indies) have over 150 species of frogs, 125 of which belong to the Eleutherodactylus genus. Scientists categorize Eleutherodactylus johnstonei as adept colonizers, with remarkable tolerance toward habitat changes.
Saba's frog consumes invertebrates but prefers insects. It is preyed upon by the indigenous racer snake as well as herons and other seabirds.
Tree Frog or Johnstone's
Saba's one and only frog is from the Eleutherodactylus genus. Like most scientific names for animals, the origin of the name has real meaning, not intended solely as a tongue twister. Eleutheros and daktylos are both Greek words describing the; 'free finger' of this amphibian. The second part of the species' name, johnstonei was so named to commemorate the Chief Justice of Grenada who in the early 20th century provided aid to the collectors of the first specimens. According to scientists, strongest song activity can be during the months of April through October or after light rains. This frog is commonly called a Whistling Frog on other Caribbean islands though most Sabans refer to it as a Tree Frog
And if you think this guy is cute, have a look at some of the outrageous spectacles we photographed in Costa Rica.
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This page last updated on 05/25/2006
Dr. Robert Powell is a distinguished professor of Biology at Avila University in Kansas City, Missouri in the USA. Along with his colleagues and fellow herpetologists Robert Henderson and John Parmerlee, he co-authored The Reptiles and Amphibians of the Dutch Caribbean. The information in his book has helped us and others to better understand Saba's slippery and slimy critters. This handbook comes in two sizes and it's laminated-- so it's ready to take along 'in the field' or just better equipped to handle our very humid environment. This same humid environment is what makes our island what it is, a special habitat for Saba's flora and fauna.
Taking pictures of Saba's frogs...
Most of my photos of Saba's tree frogs are taken in our garden. If you are staying anywhere on Saba at the elevation of Windwardside or higher, it shouldn't be difficult to find models, provided you're willing to work at night. Our neighbors have grown accustomed to our night time forays with headlamps, camera flashes and backdrops to capture the correct moment for frogs, the opening of a cactus blossom or a sleeping anole.
Just getting comfortable with scientific names, John prefers to categorize these guys as JLBs (jumpy little bastards). Best photo ops can be expected after recent rainfall and at night. The male frogs are smaller than the females yet is they who make all the racket at night--trying to attract females. Combined with the chorus of geckos and crickets, our evenings are far from quiet.
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