Meet Florida's latest invasive species: the Western Clawed Frog


  • Photo via University of Florida

Florida already has a long list of invasive species, which includes Burmese pythons, Nile crocodiles, poisonous toads, “River Monsters,” herpes monkeys, meningitis snails, and cute little capybara. So, it shouldn’t be that shocking that the Sunshine State now has a clawed frog from Western Africa.

Researchers with the University of Florida recently confirmed that a “breeding site” of invasive frogs discovered at a Riverview stormwater runoff pond in 2014 was initially misidentified, and is actually hosting Western clawed frogs, which are distinguishable by their protruding eyes, flattened bodies, and small talons attached to each limb.

While Western clawed frogs aren’t a direct threat to humans, researchers say the frogs have the potential to spread disease, and compete with native frog species for food sources, which can disrupt aquatic ecosystems.

Of course, the name is certainly menacing, but the frog’s claws are pretty small and are used to “shred and break apart larger prey.” The frogs are almost entirely aquatic, and feed primarily on aquatic invertebrates, like bugs, but will often eat other frogs’ eggs or tadpoles.

“The Tropical clawed frog invasion represents yet another disturbance to Florida’s aquatic ecosystems, particularly those in southern Florida, which are already vulnerable due to habitat destruction, pollution, invasive species and disease,” said Christina Romagosa, a UF/IFAS research associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation in a statement.

As of now, it’s unclear how the Western clawed frogs got here, and how widespread they are in Florida. But it's worth noting that researchers sampled 43 water bodies in the Tampa Bay area, and found Western clawed frogs in 22 of them.

According to UF, the state of Florida spends roughly $45 million a year on managing its growing invasive species problem.

Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly newsletters, and consider supporting this free publication. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you Central Florida news, and every little bit helps.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.