Nights may never sound the same on St. Martin. We will still have the piercing thweet of the Whistling Frog, the cackling of the Cuban Tree Frog and the harsh buzzing of the Money Bug. But a new sound is echoing out on rainy nights. It is a low-pitched honk, as if from a giant robot goose, and it’s probably coming to your neighborhood soon.
It is the sound of the Colombian Four-eyed Frog. It is smaller than you might imagine from its voice. This frog only has two real eyes, but it also has two eyespots on its butt. When in danger, this frog faces that danger butt-first, hoping that those eyespots will intimidate the threat. It can also show off bright orange patches on its legs to alarm a would-be predator. If that fails, the eyespots are also poison glands.
Our newest frog comes from South America. It also lives in Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. We don’t know how it got here, or when. It was first noticed on St. Martin in late 2017.
The story of St. Martin’s wildlife has been written over millions of years. But lately, the number of new characters in that story has been increasing very quickly. Today, almost all new species come here with human help. Most hitch a ride with cargo. We almost never know exactly when they arrive or how. We only notice them when they start to be common.
The Four-eyed Frog is the latest in a long tradition of introduced species connected to major hurricanes. Several animals are associated with Hurricane Luis. Stories about the Vervet Monkey and Green Iguana often involve Luis, but there’s no proof that their arrival is related to the storm. The Giant African Land Snail allegedly came with giant spools of cable that were brought to restore power after Luis. The Spotted Oleander Caterpillar Moth may have come with Oleander bushes brought in for landscaping.
Did the Four-eyed Frog arrive with cargo after Hurricane Irma? Did pet frogs escape during the storm? Was it already living here unnoticed before the storm? We probably won’t ever have an answer. We do know that it has made its way from French Cul-de-sac to Grand Case already, even though there were many months of dry weather. Probably it is headed towards your neighborhood.
We can’t know exactly how it got here, but we can learn about how the Four-eyed Frog spreads across the island. Have you seen or heard this frog? Tell us by writing in to The Daily Herald or to firstname.lastname@example.org.