|Listed||November 11, 1977|
|Description||Gold-colored frog with a rounded snout.|
|Habitat||Mountaintops in dense bromeliad thickets.|
|Threats||Loss of habitat, limited distribution.|
The golden coqui (Eleutherodactylus jasperi ) is a small frog attaining a maximum size (snout-vent length) of slightly less than 1 in (2.5 cm). It has an indistinct tympanum and lacks prevomerine teeth. The color is olive-gold to yellow-gold without pattern. Juveniles resemble the adults.
Growth rates, longevity, and details of the fertilization process of the golden coqui are unknown. Gravid females have been collected from April to August. The number of mature eggs ranges from three to six. Based on a single laboratory experiment, about a month elapses between the time of fertilization and birth of the young. An observation of two size-classes of subadults in the same plant with a female suggests that a single female may reproduce more than one time per year. The golden coqui is the only frog species in the Western hemisphere family Leptodactylidae definitely known to give birth to live young.
The habitat area is located within an elevational range of 2,297-2,789 ft (700-850 m). The species has been found only in water-containing bromeliads of the genera Vriesia, Hoenbergia, and Guzmania. A low incidence of golden coquis in isolated bromeliads suggests that dispersal distances are short. Colonization of bromeliad clusters seems to be independent of whether they occur on the ground, in trees, or on vertical surfaces of cliffs.
The golden coqui is found only in Puerto Rico. All specimens to date have been collected from a small semicircular area of a 6-mi (9.7-m) radius south of Cayey, generally at elevations above 2,297 ft (700 m). Distribution of the golden coqui is restricted to areas of dense bromeliad growth (less than 3.3 ft [1 m] separating individual plants). Bromeliad growths are associated with rock faces, isolated trees, and the margins of forest in a mountainous area that receives a large amount of moisture in the form of dew. Heavy dew is apparently produced by the oro-graphic uplift of air striking the mountain range. Studies carried out in 1976 indicated that it was normal to find two or more adults and two or more size-classes of juveniles per bromeliad. Population levels are not currently known and may be critical. Surveys carried out in 1986, 1987, and 1989 did not encounter any individuals.
The coqui's threatened status is based on the past and potential loss of habitat to development for homes, agriculture, and other purposes; on the potential for overcollecting; and on the fact that the species has a specialized, obligate bromeliad-dwelling mode of existence. This mode of existence— coupled with a low reproductive rate, inability to disperse, and a limited range—makes its existence naturally precarious. Recent studies indicate that acid rain may play a role in the decline of this and other species of Eleutherodactylus in Puerto Rico.
Conservation and Recovery
All currently known habitat is privately owned, and habitat protection through purchase, donation, lease, or easement should be the highest priority action. Additional surveys are urgently needed in order to determine the current status of the species. Critical habitat has been designated for portions of Cerro Avispa, Monte el Gato, and Sierra de Cayey at elevations above 2,296.6 ft (700 m).
Regional Office of Endangered Species
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1875 Century Blvd., Suite 200
Atlanta, Georgia 30345
Boquerón Ecological Services Field Office
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 491
Boquerón, Puerto Rico 00622-0491
Telephone: (787) 851-7297
Fax: (787) 851-7440
Drewry, G. E., and R. L. Jones. 1976. "A new ovoviviparous frog (Eleutherodactylus jasperi ) from Puerto Rico." Journal of Herpetology 10 (3): 161-165.
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1984. "Recovery plan for the golden coqui (Eleutherodactylus jasperi )." U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta.