Axanthism in amphibians: A review and the first record in the widespread toad of the Bufotes viridis complex (Anura: Bufonidae)


  • Daniel Jablonski Department of Zoology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Comenius University in Bratislava, Mlynská dolina B-1, 842 15 Bratislava
  • Andrej Alena Muškátová 16, 902 01 Pezinok
  • Petr Vlček Slovanská 5, 736 01 Havířov-Město
  • David Jandzik Department of Zoology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Comenius University in Bratislava, Mlynská dolina B-1, 842 15 Bratislava



Amphibia, Bufo viridis, color aberration, Slovakia


Axanthism in amphibians is a relatively rare color aberration reported less often than leucism or albinism. It is caused by lack of specific types of pigment cells in the skin, namely xanthophores, erythrophores, and iridophores. Here, we present the first case of occurrence of this aberration in a widely distributed toad of the green toad (Bufotes viridis) complex and provide an extensive review of axanthism occurrence in amphibians. So far it has been reported in more than 20 species from nine families of amphibians with the highest occurrence in the family Ranidae.


Andrä E (2011). Aspekte der Biologie der Wechselkröte. Wechselkröten-Symposium des LBV am 13. Mai 2011, München.

Andrén C & Nilson G (1981). Reproductive success and risk of predation in normal and melanistic colour morphs of the adder, Vipera berus. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 15:235-246.

Arnold EN & Ovenden D (2002). A field guide to the reptiles and amphibians of Britain and Europe. 2nd Edition. HarperCollins Publishers, London.

Bechtel HB (1995). Reptile and amphibian variants:colors, patterns, and scales. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, Florida.

Berns MW & Narayan KS (1970). An histochemical and ultrastructural analysis of the dermal chromatophores of the variant blue frog. Journal of Morphology, 132:169-180.

Berns MW & Uhler LD (1966). Blue frogs of the genus Rana. Herpetologica, 22:181-183.

Black JH (1967). A blue leopard frog from Montana. Herpetologica, 23:314-315.

Brame AHJr (1962). A survey of albinism in salamanders. Abhandlungen und Berichte für Naturkunde und Vorgeschichte, 11:65-81.

Browder LW (1968). Pigmentation in Rana pipiens:I. Inheritance of the speckle mutation. Journal of Heredity, 59:163-167.

Caballero L, Benítez M, Alvarez-Buylla ER, Hernández S, Arzola AV & Cocho G. (2012).An epigenetic model for pigment patterning based on mechanical and cellular interactions. Journal of Experimental Zoology (Molecular and Developmental Evolution), 318:209-223.

Cain BW & Utesch SR (1976). An unusual color pattern of the green tree frog, Hyla cinerea. Southwestern Naturalist, 21:235-236.

Campanna E (1973). Biological observation on the incomplete albinism of the Crested newt (Triturus cristatus, Laur.). Archives of Biology, 84:377-415.

Childs HE (1953). Selection by predation on albino and normal spadefoot toads. Evolution, 7:228-233.

Dandová R, Kotlík P & Zavadil V (1995). Ein Fall von Albinismus beim Kleinen Wasserfrosch. Salamandra (Rheinbach), 31:57-60.

Dubois A & Vachard D (1971). Sur une anomalie pigmentaire de la grenouille verte Rana esculenta et de quelques autres amphibiens anoures et urodeles. Bulletin Mensuel de la Société Linnéenne de Lyon, 40:40-52.

Dubois A (1969). Sur un crapaud commun aux yeux noirs. Bulletin Mensuel de la Société Linnéenne de Lyon, 38:105-106.

Dubois A (1976). Deux Rana cyanophlyctis du Nepal aux yeux noirs (Amphibiens, Anoures). Bulletin de la Societe Linneenne de Lyon, 45:303-307.

Dubois A (1979). Anomalies and mutations in natural populations of the Rana “esculenta” complex (Amphibia, Anura). Mitteilungen aus dem Zoologischen Museum in Berlin, 55:59-87.

Dubois A, Fisher JL & Payen D (1973). Un Triton palmé (Triturus helveticus) aux yeux noirs. Comptes Rendus des Séances et Mémoires de la Société de Biologie, 167:1733-1735.

Duellman WE & Trueb L (1994). Biology of Amphibians. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

Dyrkacz S (1981). Recent instances of albinism in North American amphibians and reptiles. SSAR, Herpetological Circular, 11:1-31.

Engelmann WE & Obst FJ (1976). Partielle Pigmentlosigkeit bei Bufo viridis viridis (Amphibia, Anura, Bufonidae). Zoologische Abhandlungen Staatliches Museum für Tierkunde in Dresden, 34:39-41.

Escoriza D (2012). Description of a case of albinism in a tadpole of Discoglossus pictus pictus (Anura:Discoglossidae) in Sicily. Herpetology Notes, 5:311-312.

Fischer C (1999). Teichfrosch (Rana kl. esculenta) mit beidäugig schwarzer iris. Salamandra (Rheinbach), 35:57-59.

Flindt R (1985). Latenter Albinismus und Mißbildungen bei Kaulquappen von Wechselkröten Bufo viridis LAURENTI, 1768. Salamandra (Rheinbach), 21:298-303.

Frost DR (2014). Amphibian Species of the World:an Online Reference. (Internet address:

Frost SK, Briggs F & Malacinski GM (1984). A color atlas of pigment genes in the Mexican axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum). Differentiation, 26:182-188.

Frost-Mason SK & Mason KA (1996). What insights into vertebrate pigmentation has the axolotl model system provided? International Journal of Developmental Biology, 40:685-693.

Galan P, Vences M, Glaw F, Fernandez Arias G & Garcia-Paris M (1990). Beobachtungen zur Biologie von Alytes obstetricans in Nordwestiberian. herpetofauna, 12:17-24.

Gvoždík L (1999). Colour polymorphism in a population of the common lizard, Zootoca vivipara (Squamata:Lacertida). Folia Zoologica, 48:131-136.

Hinz W (1976). Ein weiterer melanistischer Laubfrosch (Hyla arborea). Mitteilungen der Zoologischen Gesellschaft Braunau, 2:231-232.

Hoffman EA & Blouin MS (2000). A review of colour and pattern polymorphisms in anurans. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 70:633-665.

Jambrich A & Jandzik D (2012). Melanism in the topotypic population of the Pannonian subspecies of the common lizard, Zootoca vivipara pannonica (Reptilia:Lacertidae). Herpetology Notes, 5:219-221.

Juszczyk W (1987). Płazy i gady krajowe, część 2, Plazy – Amphibia; PWN, Warszawa, Poland.

Keely CC & Maldonado SP (2013). Litoria raniformis (Growling Grass Frog). Leucism. Herpetological Review, 44:297.

Lanza B & Canestrelli D (2002). Atypische Färbung bei Salamandrina terdigitata (Lacepede, 1788) und Bufo viridis viridis Laurenti, 1768. Salamandra (Rheinbach), 38:105-108.

Lips KR & Savage JM (1996). A new species of rainfrog, Eleutherodactylus phasma (Anura:Leptodactylidae), from montane Costa Rica. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 109:744-748.

Liu C. (1931). The occurrence of blue frogs in the Peiping region. China Journal, 15:246-249.

Livezey RL (1960). A melanistic Taricha granulosa granulosa Skilton. Herpetologica, 16:129.

López JA & Ghirardi R (2011). First record of albinism in Rhinella fernandezae (Gellardo, 1957). Belgian Journal of Zoology, 141:59-61.

Martof BS (1964). An unusual color variant of Rana pipiens. Herpetologica, 17:269-270.

Mikulíček P, Kautman J & Zavadil V (2001). Rana ridibunda albinos from eastern Slovakia living syntopically with other central european waterfrog taxa. Acta Rerum naturalium Musei Nationalis Slovaci, 47:90-94.

Mitchell JC (2002). Leucistic Marbled Salamanders (Ambystoma opacum) in Virginia. Banisteria, 20:67-69.

Mitchell RW, Russell WH & Elliot WR (1977). Mexian eyeless characin fishes, genus Astyanax:environment, distribution, and evolution. Special Publications the Museum Texas Tech University, Texas Tech Press, Lubbock, Texas.

Modesti A, Aguzzi S & Manenti R (2011). A case of complete albinism in Lissotriton vulgaris meridionalis. Herpetology Notes, 4:395-396.

Nevo E (1973). Adaptive color polymorphism in cricket frogs. Evolution, 27:353-367.

Niccoli JR (2013). Acris crepitans (Northern Cricket Frog). Axanthism. Herpetological Review, 44:117.

Nishioka M & Ueda H (1985a). Blue variants in Hyla arborea japonica. Scientific report of the Laboratory for Amphibian Biology, Hiroshima University, 7:181-197.

Nishioka M & Ueda H (1985b). Electron-microscopic observation on the dermal chromatophoes of normal frogs and three kinds of color variants in Rhacophorus schlegelii. Scientific report of the Laboratory for Amphibian Biology, Hiroshima University, 7:123-155.

Nishioka M & Ueda H (1985c). Non-inheritable color variants in Rana brevipoda porosa. Scientific report of the Laboratory for Amphibian Biology, Hiroshima University, 7:199-217.

Nishioka M & Ueda H (1985d). Two kids of black-eyed variants in Hyla arborea japonica. Scientific report of the Laboratory for Amphibian Biology, Hiroshima University, 7:157-179.

Pabijan M, Czarniewska E & Berger L (2004). Amelanistic phenotypes in western palearctic water frogs from Poland. Herpetozoa, 17:127-134.

Reeves MK, Doplh CL, Zimmer H, Tjeerdema RS & Trust KA (2008). Road proximity increases risk of skeletal abnormalities in wood frogs from national wildlife refuges in Alaska. Environmental Health Perspectives, 116:1009-1014.

Richards CM, Tartof DT & Nace GW (1969). A melanoid variant in Rana pipiens. Copeia, 1969:850-852.

Schulz KD (1996). Eine Monographie der Schlangengattung Elaphe Fitzinger. Bushmaster Publications, Berg, Switzerland.

Sket B & Arntzen JW (1994). A black non-troglomorphic amphibian from the karst of Slovenia:Proteus anguinus parkelj n. ssp. (Urodela: Proteidae). Bijdragen tot de Dierkunde, 64:33-53.

Smallcombe WA (1949). Albinism in Rana temporaria. Journal of Genetics, 49:286-290.

Spadola F & Insacco G (2010). Incomplete albinism in Discoglossus pictus (Otth, 1837). Acta Herpetologica, 5:245-253.

Stöck M, Moritz C, Hickerson M, Frynta D, Dujsebayeva T, Eremchenko V, Macey JR, Papenfuss TJ & Wake DB (2006). Evolution of mitochondrial relationships and biogeography of Palearctic green toads (Bufo viridis subgroup) with insights in their genomic plasticity. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 41:663–689.

Stöck M, Sicilia A, Belfiore NM, Buckley D, Lo-Brutto S., Lo-Valvo M & Arculeo M (2008). Post-Messinian evolutionary relation-ships across the Sicilian channel:mitochondrial and nuclear markers link a new green toad from Sicily to African relatives. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 8:56.

Thomas M, Rottscheidt R & Hachtel M (2002). Ein Fall von Flavinismus bei Erdkröte Bufo bufo (Linnaeus, 1758) nahe Bonn. Salamandra (Rheinbach), 38:119-123.

Toledo LF, Da Silva NR & Dos Santos Araújo OG (2011). Albinism in two Amazonian frogs:Elachistocleis carvalhoi (Microhylidae) and Lithobates palmipes (Ranidae). Herpetology Notes, 4:145-146.

Vershinin VL (2004). Frequency of iris depigmentation in urban populations of Rana arvalis Frogs. Russian Journal of Ecology, 35:58-62.

Vitt LJ & Caldwell JP (2009). Herpetology:An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles; 3rd Edition. Academic Press, San Diego. 697 pp.

Vlček P (2003). Skokan zelený s černou duhovkou. ŽIVA, 51:225.

Vlček P (2008). Axanthismus u skokana krátkonohého (Pelophylax lessonae). Herpeto-logické Informace, 7:15.

Werner F (1893). Albinismus und Melanismus bei Reptilien und Amphibien. Verhandlungen der Zoologisch-Botanischen Gesellschaft in Wien, 43:4-6.

Wilkens H (1988). Evolution and genetics of epigean and cave Astyanax fasciatus (Characidae, Pisces). Evolutionary Biology, 23:271-367.




How to Cite

Jablonski, D., Alena, A., Vlček, P., & Jandzik, D. (2020). Axanthism in amphibians: A review and the first record in the widespread toad of the Bufotes viridis complex (Anura: Bufonidae). Belgian Journal of Zoology, 144(2).