In our Oregon spotted frog program we are not strangers to odd frog occurrences. We have in the past had a frog with an extra leg (named “kickstand”) and have had a tadpole with no eyes (“blinky”). Sometimes we have a frog that is lacking pigmentation. They are not true albinos as they have pigmented irises, but they lack a lot of the brown and dark colouration that allows these animals to blend into their natural habitat.
In 2016 biologists surveying for Oregon spotted frogs caught a light-coloured tadpole in their traps that looked yellow and pink…very unusual for a frog in BC! They brought the tadpole to the head-starting program where we reared it up in hopes of identifying it. Once metamorphosed it turned out to be a female red-legged frog. Red-legged frogs are a native species often mistaken for spotted frogs as eggs, tadpoles and young frogletts.
We still have our oddly-coloured friend. We named her Richard and she will live her life at the zoo, teaching visitors about variability within species, camouflage (or lack thereof) and individual survival chances.
We have also seen cases of lack of pigmentation, like Richard, in spotted frogs. Usually tadpoles lacking in pigmentation develop into abnormally large tadpoles and fail to metamorphose, living the remainder of their lives as large white tadpoles. In 2017, we had our first unpigmented spotted frog tadpole actually complete metamorphosis. Needless to say, this frog will also not be released but will join Richard as an educational animal. They are very interesting and very obvious! Check out the picture accompanying this article to see a side-by-side (hint) example of the importance of camouflage!