Cuban Tree Frog Poisoning: Are Salicylates a Real Problem For the Cuban Tree Frog?
The Cuban tree frog is a vast species of tropical tree frog that is only native to Cuba, the Caribbean, and the Cayman Islands; however, it has unfortunately recently become invasive in many other locations around the Americas. This species has a relatively short history in North America but has already established populations in seven South American countries (including Venezuela and Colombia), two in Southeast Asia, two in the Western Pacific, and one in the northern part of South America.
The Cuban tree frog’s range in this area is only moderate; its presence in the more southernmost regions results from increasing habitat demand and less habitat availability in the colder parts of the wintertime. Their population densities are currently low, but their numbers could grow significantly, especially with increasing tourism pressure from Latin America and Asia. In this context, understanding the biological and ecological processes by which this frog is adapted is particularly important.
The word ‘tree frog’ refers to three things:
- They are not real tree frogs; instead, they are semi-desiccated arboreal species.
- They have their name based on their posterior end’s shape, a condition that makes them look like a tree about their body shape.
- Their scientific term, Salicylic Acidodes Capitals, refers to the amino acid sequences they contain.
So what are salicylic acidodes? Salicylic acidosis is sulfur compounds (which make them more slippery than other sulfur compounds). They act as chemical sensors, detecting substrates (organisms and other organic materials) through chemical signals—the salicylates found in tree frogs’ saliva act as sensors of these substrates. Salicylates block the receptors to send out the signs that the substrates are there. Thus no reaction occurs.
This is how salicylic acidosis functions. The job is to prevent the trees from absorbing the organic compounds that they come into contact with. That way, they prevent disease. Since they are a part of the tree, when the tree falls over, salicylates will keep falling off and will eventually fall onto the ground, where the tree frogs can then ingest them.
However, what salicylic acidosis does not do is stop tree frogs from moving their limbs or changing their locations. Salicylates are like many other chemicals that tree frogs use to break down organic matter. Frogs put salicylates on food that they eat to help break it down and get nutrients. In effect, salicylates are “tagging” the food to decompose. Salicylates are also used as bait for other animals such as birds, certain types of insects, and other vertebrates.
However, the thing about salicylates is that they do not just end up in the environment where the tree frogs live. Salicylates are released into the soil so that grasses and other plants can take hold of them and use them as a source of food. Salicylates in the ground will act as a food source for these tree frogs until, eventually, they can make their food by breaking down dead plant material. The tree frogs thus use salicylates for survival.
Scientists’ primary concern is that salicylates are known to be one of the most toxic substances known to man. If human beings ingest salicylates, they can lead to severe health problems, including death. It is estimated that in only one percent of the cases of accidental poisoning death, the cause of death was from the ingestion of salicylates. The combination of salicylates with exposure to insecticides, as in the case of the Cuban tree frogs, has led to severe health problems such as cancer and renal failure. In other words, it is not an ideal solution for a domestic animal or plant, even a friendly neighbor’s tree frog.
Nevertheless, it is not the Cuban tree frog itself that poses a danger posed by salicylates but rather from the chemical that Salicylate Derivatives are derived from. As you might imagine, this chemical, Salicylate Derivatives, are present in numerous products made from or by the Cuban tree frog. So, for the good of the frog and your interest, be careful what you apply or eat to your body! Think about this.