The one that (almost) hopped away: Over a year after first spotting ‘one-in-a-million’ blue frog, Carbonear teen and friends catch the elusive amphibian

ST. JOHN’S, NL — For over a year, it was the one that hopped away from Keaton Clarke.

But while camping last weekend, the 13-year-old’s flashlight managed to shine once again on a blue frog.

“I knew they were a thing, but I … just thought my eyes were probably tricking me,” the avid amphibian collector from Carbonear said. “But then when I picked it up, when I got a closer look, I was like, ‘Oh my god, this frog is blue.’”

As is often the case, Keaton was with his friends Sean Harnum and Daniel Clarke when he was looking for frogs and toads that night.

From left to right are friends and avid amphibian trappers Sean Harnum, Keaton Clarke and Daniel Clarke. Contributed. – Contributed

“(They said) the same thing I was saying, they were freaking out,” he said. “Especially Daniel because he was with me when I was trying to catch it last year. It was a big deal for both of us because this is just a one-in-a-million frog.”

Given how rare they are, the boys are convinced it was the same one.

But it wasn’t the easiest catch.

Since the frog doesn’t have the evolutionary advantage of being camouflaged amongst the grass like it would if it were green, Keaton theorizes it’s possible this blue frog developed a quicker response to potential predators.

“He was right in front of us and we were just shining in on him … we were trying to catch it and he kept on getting away because of his reflexes,” he said. “(But) when we saw him on the path it was earlier, so I bet he was colder (later) and he couldn’t move as fast. And we ended up just picking him right up.”

“…this is just a one-in-a-million frog.”
— Keaton Clarke

Single mutation

According to Elizabeth Glenn, an environmental interpreter at The Fluvarium in St. John’s, what Keaton was holding in his hand is called a Green Frog — very common in Newfoundland — but this particular one has a mutation called axanthism.

“Normally with Green Frogs, they have two colours, two pigments in their skin. So, you see yellow and you see blue and together, with our human eyes, you see that together as green,” Glenn said. “But what can happen is sometimes a frog can have a lack of pigmentation. And so, you just get the blue tones in them.”

It’s not as rare as some other mutations like albinism, but they certainly are very unique, Glenn said.

Staff at The Fluvarium have been doing a lot of research into blue frogs since getting their own, which they named Sapphire.

“The most interesting thing I found is that they can change color over time,” Glenn said. “Our blue frog here is kind of getting a turquoise, green color. And when we first got the frog it was a bright, bright blue, I’m guessing because it was much younger.”

baby blues?

Keaton’s always loved animals, he said.

“My whole life, I just was trying to collect them, different kinds, different rarities, different reptiles, amphibians, arachnids,” he said.

And now he’s hoping to create more blue ones.

But how, exactly, is he planning on doing that?

“You put them together and you just wait,” he said.

His mother, Lisa Yetman, said Keaton placed a male and a female in a fish tank with the blue frog to see what happens.

While the attempt at breeding might be a new addition to the hobby, Yetman said catching toads and frogs is a fairly common pastime for some of the kids in their family.

“I had a nephew the same way,” she said. “He’s 33. He comes out a couple times during the summer with us and he’ll still go out with Keaton catching toads and frogs. It’s just second nature.”

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