Rare mutation turns frog bright blue

Blue frog

A spectacular, blue-skinned tree frog has astonished scientists at a remote wildlife sanctuary in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The Magnificent Tree Frog is normally green with white spots across the back, but this individual, photographed recently by a team from Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC), was uniquely coloured bright blue, due to a rare genetic mutation.

Jake Barker, AWC Field Ecologist, was part of the group who first encountered the unusual frog at Charnley River-Artesian Range Wildlife Sanctuary (Wilinggin Country).

“It was after dark when we first spotted it, perched on a bench in the workshop near our research centre,” he said. “It was very exciting. Magnificent tree frogs are already spectacular, but to see a blue one is a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”

As far as AWC scientists are aware, this is the first recorded instance of a blue colour mutation in the Magnificent Tree Frog.

According to Curator of Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Biology at the Australian Museum, Dr Jodi Rowley, the mutation is an extremely rare occurrence.

“Very occasionally, a green frog is missing yellow pigment in its skin, and it results in an entirely or mostly blue frog,” she said. “I’ve seen tens of thousands of frogs over the years, and only seen one blue frog – and it was nowhere near as spectacular as this Magnificent Tree Frog. A rare encounter and one that highlights the spectacular diversity of Australia’s frogs!”

This Magnificent Tree Frog (known by its scientific name as Litoria splendida) is found only in the northern Kimberley and adjacent parts of the Northern Territory. It is one of the largest species of amphibians in Australia, growing to about 12 centimetres.

“This is one of a number of north-west endemics that we come across pretty regularly around here,” according to Jake. “They’re not found anywhere else. That’s the great thing about working in the Kimberley – you never know what rare wildlife you’re going to see each day,” he said.

Charnley River-Artesian Range Wildlife Sanctuary is part of the traditional lands of the Ngarinyin People, and has been managed for conservation by AWC since 2011. AWC ecologists and partner groups run extensive biodiversity surveys in the Kimberley, carrying out thousands of survey nights across the region each year. The data helps to inform conservation land management programs such as improving fire patterns and tackling feral animals and weeds.

Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) is a global leader in conservation, providing hope to Australia’s wildlife with a science-informed, land management partnership model that delivers high-impact results. AWC is a national leader in landscape scale conservation land management, reintroductions of threatened species and the establishment of feral predator-free areas.


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