The Albino Tadpole

12:48 PM

A fellow naturalist and friend Gillian Moore sent me a photograph, of a tadpole she found last week in the wetland of a local conservation area.  Gill was leading a wetland dipping program for a group of grade 4’s when they came across an alien looking creature.  But what species does this tadpole belong to?

Through a bit of research and by looking at other photos of albino tadpoles Gill had a suspicion as to the species; but asked for my opinion.  Due to the time of year and large size of the tadpole we were able to narrow down the species to American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeiana), Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans) or Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens).  A tadpole as large as this albino tadpole definitely overwintered.  Bullfrog and Green Frog tadpoles typically take 1-2 years to mature into adult frogs; therefore many overwinter as tadpoles for a season.  Leopard Frog tadpoles have also been known to overwinter for a season; however this is not as common as it is with Bullfrog and Green Frogs, due to the large size of the mature frogs.  I ruled out American Bullfrog because I haven’t yet heard or observed any in this particular wetland, which I visit frequently.  Due to the fact that this tadpole overwintered my best guess is that it is a Green Frog tadpole (this was Gill’s guess as well).  However we don’t know for sure as we did not examine the tooth row of the tadpole.  It was released back to the wetland after it was captured.  

Albino Green Frog Tadpole, Photo by Gillian Moore

Albinism is a defect of melanin production that results in little or no color (pigment) in the skin, which occurs in nature in a wide variety of animals from mammals to insects.  According to Discovery Fit and Health “the occurrence of albinism runs the gamut across the animal kingdom. According to the Missouri Conservationist, published by the Missouri Department of Conservation, at least 300 species in North America have had at least one reported instance of albinism. Researchers observe albinism occurs once out of every 10,000 mammal births. Albinism is much more common in birds, occurring once in every 1,764 births. Diluting or spreading out a species' gene pool greatly reduces the chance of albinism.”  Albino animals are typically easy prey for predators as they stand out and can’t rely on their camouflage.  I personally have never seen a wild albino animal; however Gill’s experience gives me hope that we will see an albino Green Frog hopping around in that wetland this summer. 

What an incredible find!  Thanks for allowing me to share your experience and photo Gill. 

Good birding!

~ Kristen Martyn

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