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The Island of Enchantment, Puerto Rico, is home to one of Nature’s most melodious creatures, the Coqui Frog. No larger than a quarter, the earth colored warbling wunderkind fills the island’s tropical nights with its very unique and special song.
Legend has it that their song, which sounds like their name, “co-key”, means “I Love You”. Coqui lovers in the scientific community have shown that legend to be fact, with a twist. The first part of the song, the “co”, is to attract a partner, but the second, the “key”, is to let interlopers know any interruption of their nightly romancing will be dealt with “mano-a-mano”.
There are currently 18 known species of the coqui in Puerto Rico. The Eleutherodactylus coquí, or coquí común, is the most common species of coquí on the island of Puerto Rico. They are considered common because this species can be found throughout the island’s varying ecological zones.
During the day, the coquí común is inactive, finding shelter under fallen leaves, inside bromeliads or resting high above in a palm tree. In low vegetation, these tiny tree frogs can be found resting in tall grasses, under the bark of trees, in axilas of palms, bromeliads, and under rocks or tree trunks. It is not far-fetched to also find coquí scaling the walls of buildings and houses or in the corners of windows, etc.
However, no matter where you find your coquí, the most important element of their shelter is a sufficient amount of humidity to allow the coquí to re-hydrate. You’ll only find one coquí per shelter-And if it’s a male, he’ll defend his home against intruders.
As the sun begins to set on the islands of Puerto Rico, the coquí común emerges from its hiding place and begins his familiar cry: “CO-QUI (KO-KEY).” To some people, the sound is annoying and almost deafening: but to native Puerto Ricans, visitors to the island and scientists know that this is the special sound that tells us the island is alive and well. It is common for Puerto Ricans who live abroad to say that the one thing they miss most about the island is the call of the coquí in the evening.
Coquís are considered the most important of Puerto Rico’s nocturnal creatures. It has been estimated that coquís are responsible for consuming 114,000 individual units of prey in a hectare. The coquí común is an ambush predator; meaning it sits and waits for its prey to cross its path. It consumes about 3.3 units of prey a night, swallowing its prey whole and taking 10 to 12 hours to digest. Their favorite food is small insects, especially mosquitoes, spiders, cockroaches, ants, and worms. Coquís eat in proportion to their size..
The coqui is a much loved and celebrated icon of Puerto Rico, and as such it is used by many artists in traditional crafts and will be found throughout souvenir shops in Puerto Rico. If you would rather shop online for a souvenir of the coqui, click here.
Source for information: Rivero, Juan A., Los anfibios y reptiles de Puerto Rico.
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