Dart frogs contain pigment in their skin. These pigments are what give our frogs their bright, spectacular colors. Sometimes, genetic anomalies crop up that can cause a reduction or elimination of some of these pigments. When a particular dark pigment (melanin) is reduced, the result is called hypomelanism. When melanin is lacking altogether, the animal is generally considered an albino (if other color pigments are present, these animals are technically called 'amelanistic').
Albinism most often pops up when the gene pool is small. With dart frogs, many captive populations descend from a relatively small number of founders. Although huge numbers of wild caught animals may have been imported in the past, few survived to breed and create the captive populations we have today. As the diversity of the gene pool lessens, mutations such as albinism are more likely to pair up and be expressed in offspring. Often, these animals are weak and do not thrive, due to the deleterious effects of several generations of inbreeding. Albinism can also be coupled with extreme light sensitivity (and all the difficulties that crop up with that, such as difficulty feeding), and even blindness.
Needless to say, we were completely caught off guard when one of our imported pairs of Alalapadu cobalts produced some suspiciously white tadpoles. Those developed into small, pink froglets! Our completely normal appearing adult cobalts were both carriers for the amelanism gene mutation, and about 25% of their offspring displayed the trait.
Keeping albino darts can be a touchy subject - in most cases, the animal's quality of life is severely impacted. As these albino cobalts grew, they did just as well as their non-albino siblings. Since no inbreeding had occurred, and these animals still possessed some darker pigments, vision and behavior was not impacted. These albinos ate, grew, and were just as active as their non-albino siblings!
So began 2 years of trials to 'prove' that these albinos were just as healthy as any other dart frog. We've raised them up to adulthood, bred them together to see how albino x albino offspring would fare, and outcrossed them with amazing results. Much to our relief, these frogs are just as hardy as non-albinos at all life stages, and show no aversion to light or vision issues.
Providing animals to customers is a big part of our mission to connect people with nature, and the income generated allows us to fund our Conservation Initiatives, which help conserve animals in the wild. We're excited to offer, for the first time ever at Josh's Frogs, albino Alalapadu Cobalt dart frogs! We recommend housing one or two of these spectacular looking darts in with other, wild-type Alalapadu cobalts. It's a great way to add to the variety of animals in the vivarium without mixing different species or locales!
For more information on keeping and breeding dart frogs, you can check out our dart frog blogs here or our Youtube videos here.