At our small lake north of Madoc, Ont., there is an abundance of bullfrog pollywogs. One afternoon I noticed a white, full-sized pollywog. It was about the colour of masking tape, almost translucent, with dark eyes, and was very active. (We put it in a glass jar to examine it before we let it go.) Could this be an albino? If so, will it grow to be a white frog? How common is this phenomenon?
–Lee-Ann E. Clark, Belleville, Ont.
“With dark eyes it’s not a true albino,” explains Andrew Lentini, curatorial keeper of amphibians and reptiles at the Toronto Zoo. “True albinos don’t have any pigment. They would have pink eyes.” The one you found is a “hypomelanistic” specimen, meaning it’s missing most but not all, of it’s natural pigments.
It could very well metamorphose into a healthy, white frog. Unfortunately, the tadpole surviving as a bright white target, easy for predators to pick off, are pretty slim.
Although none of our sources could provide hard numbers, albino frogs, partial or otherwise, are rare. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in Ontario,” says University of Guelph zoology professor Jim Bogart. “But almost all species have some incidence of albinism.”