Ainsley MacDonald, Reese Cunningham, and Jack Cunningham pose with their rare find, which they christened “Blueberry.” SHAWN CUNNINGHAM

Pelham kids capture “one in a million” blue amphibian

Jack Cunningham, 10, along with his sister Reese, 7, and their neighbour Ainsley MacDonald, 10, frequently explore the flora and fauna of the ponds near their home on Martha Court in Fenwick, and come home with exciting finds. But last Saturday they hit pay dirt when they captured a bright blue frog. After showing off the unusual find to family and friends, they duly returned the amphibian to its pond. But when their father, Shawn, took a peek on the internet and found how truly rare the blue pigmented frog is, they returned to the pond on Sunday and caught it again to make sure they had lots of pictures.

Blueberry the frog soaks up his 15 minutes of fame. SHAWN CUNNINGHAM

The frog is otherwise normal, and its condition is caused by a lack of pigments for yellow and orange colouration in its skin, allowing the blue to show through. The rare condition is known as axanthism and is similar to albinism, which is a lack of all pigmentation resulting in all-white albino individuals.

How rare is a blue frog?

One was caught in Wahnapitae by a boy from Guelph in 2018, according to the Guelph Today publication, and a California biologist called one caught in the Golden State “one in a million.”

However, a 2008 book, Malformed Frogs (a must-read for amphibian enthusiasts) says that axanthism occurs much more commonly than that, estimating one in 30,000 frogs has it, similar to the incidence of albinism. While other amphibians, snakes, and salamanders have the condition, it is most common in frogs, and usually results in a dull grey or brown critter. The spectacular blue is the rarest of its manifestations.

While blue frogs and axanthism could make you a whiz at your next trivia contest, a truly world-class trivia term is “xanthochromism,” which is the opposite of axanthism and results in frogs that are brilliantly yellow.

 

CORRECTION: The Voice has been apprised that Blueberry is not a bullfrog, but a green frog (that’s blue), which is a different species. The story has been updated accordingly.