Coquí is the generic name applied to about 16* distinct species of tree frogs in the Eleutherodactylus genus endemic to Puerto Rico, and it is also the name of a specific species which is the most abundant on the island. The name is onomatopoeic for the most common call, koh-KEE!, koh-KEE! of the namesake species. The coquí is also one of the most powerful national identity symbols in Puerto Rico.
Description- The frogs are very small ranging from 15mm to 80mm and vary widely in color and markings some being green, others brown, some having contrasting bands or lines. They do not posses any interdigital membranes (Eleutherodactylus means free toes) and hence are not well adapted to swimming but have pads on their toes that allow them to adhere to leafs and even concrete walls.
Reproduction- The species utilizes internal fertilization and like other eleutherodactylids, the fertilized eggs undergo direct development. The tadpole stage occurs entirely within a terrestrial egg, rather than as a free-living larval stage, and adult features form directly, sometimes bypassing the stages normally present in tadpole ontogeny. Thus, a tiny but fully functional froglet hatches directly from the egg. Coquis deposit 4-6 clutches of about 28 eggs each per year, mostly during the rainy season, with a development period of 17-26 days. Males guard the eggs to keep them moist and remain in the nest for a few days after they emerge. The Coquí Dorado(E. jasperi) goes even further; it is the only ovoviviparous frog species in the Leptodactylidae family that is definitely known to give birth to live young ones. The eggs are fertilized internally, which are carried in a modified oviducts. When the young are born, they resemble adults in coloration and morphology with the exception of a vestigial tail that they soon lose. Unfortunately, the Coquí Dorado is nowadays considered extinct.
Habitat- Though mostly arboreal, some coquís are terrestial but all require subtropical rain forests. The coquí can live in a variety of habitats, lowlands, highlan's, wet tree hollows, bromiliads, etc., nonetheless, deforestation is currently the biggest pressure on the coquí. Three species are thought to be extinct already: e. jasperi, e. eneidae and e. karlschmidti.
Song- The night sounds of the coquí are the soundtrack of the Puerto Rican night. Each of the sixteen species has a distinctive call and may vary their call depending on their location (highland vs lowland for example) and even the time of day. E. coqui for example, will sing its usual koh-KEE song at dusk as it climbs up a tree in search of insects but switch to Koh-KEE-KEE-KEE at dawn as it returns to ground to nest. They are quite loud (a coqui at close range can generate 100 db, about the same level as a lawnmower) and it is hard to convey the impact of the songs as the different species' calls weave together, but it creates intense nostalgia for anybody who loves the island.
Culture- There has always been a popular belief that the coquí will not sing if taken from the island which was likely started as migrant workers heading for the states would capture and take them to places like New Jersey in jars to try to take a bit of home with them. These stories have lodged in the psyche of the fiercely nationalistic and patriotic puertorriqueños and have begat the phrase "Más puertorriqueño que el coquí" (more Puerto Rican than the coquí), not to mention mountains of t-shirts, art, ceramic figurines, corporate logos, etc., featuring the tiny creature, often wearing a pava(a local distinctive peasant straw hat) and playing a cuatro(a traditional small guitar with four sympathetic strings). There is also a native story of a Taino prince Coquí that was so wise and loved by his people that Juracán smote him. Yuquiyú however, created the coquí frog to sing his name for all eternity so the people would not forget their brave prince.
Ironically, one man's meat is another man's poison. Through the wonders of global trading, coquís have made a successful migration to Hawaii most likely in nursery stock from Puerto Rico and are thriving in some areas. Where in PR, their song is considered a soothing lullaby, in Hawaii they are seen as an unbearable pest that produces such noise pollution that it drives people crazy and lowers property values. It is also claimed that it is competing successfully with local fauna and the Department of Agriculture is waging chemical warfare on the poor things with, I kid you not, massive amounts of caffeine.
* Here is a list of all sixteen Coquí species endemic to Puerto Rico
- Coquí Común (Common Coquí) Eleutherodactylus coquí
- Coquí Churí Eleutherodactylus antillensis
- Coquí Guajón Eleutherodactylus cooki
- Coquí Grillo Eleutherodactylus gryllus
- Coquí de las Hierbas (of the grasses) Eleutherodactylus brittoni
- Coquí Pitito Eleutherodactylus cochranae
- Coquí Duende Eleutherodactylus unicolor
- Coquí Dorado Eleutherodactylus jasperi presumed extinct
- Coquí de Hedrick Eleutherodactylus hedricki
- Coquí Melodioso Eleutherodactylus weightmanae
- Coquí de Mona Eleutherodactylus monensis
- Coquí de la Montaña Eleutherodactylus portorricensis
- Coquí Palmeado (palmed coquí, the only one with webbed feet) Eleutherodactylus karlschmidti presumed extinct
- Coquí de Eneida Eleutherodactylus eneidae presumed extinct
- Coquí Caoba Eleutherodactylus richmondi
- Coquí Martillito Eleutherodactylus locustus
Hawaiian Coqui http://www.hawaiiancoqui.org/aboutthecoqui.htm, 9/4/2004
Coquies, http://allaboutfrogs.org/info/species/coqui.html, 9/6/2004
Puerto Rico Asks Tree Frog Protection
,Marcelo Ballve, Associated Press Writer
,The Associated Press, http://www.frogs.org/news/article.asp?CategoryID=10&InfoResourceID=792, 9/6/2004
Welcome to Puerto Rico - The coquí,http://welcome.topuertorico.org/coqui.shtml, 9/6/2004
El Boricua - coquí,http://www.elboricua.com/coqui.html, 9/6/2004
The coquí of Puerto Rico,http://www.vineland.org/history/pr_festival/coqui.htm, 9/6/2004