STRONG — Konor Dyer, 14, of Strong searched for the perfect frog to enter in the recent Philips Old Home Days frog jumping contest. Although he didn’t win first prize, he has won the attention of state amphibian experts.

The Mt. Abram High School freshman wasn’t looking for a particular frog, he said, when he found the bright blue specimen near his grandmother’s home.

“I wanted to enter the contest,” he said. “I found two other frogs, and then I saw this one.”

He showed it to his grandmother, Dorrie White, who knew her grandson had found something unusual. She took a few pictures to send wildlife biologist Elizabeth Thorndike at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife office in Strong.

Thorndike forwarded the photos to another state biologist, who agreed that it was rare and posted it on Facebook.

Konor said although the frog only took fifth place in the contest, he has received quite a bit of attention for his unusual find. Still, he thought the frog should go back to his marshy home with his other amphibian friends.

“I thought I should let him go, so I released him that night,” he said.

So why was this frog blue?

There’s a lot to learn about what gives an amphibian its color, Matthew Chatfield, a professor at Unity College, said. He participated in a Unity College and Colby College collaborative study on amphibian health and the environment. The team documented the health of 356 frogs, and one was a blue frog.

Beyond that personal encounter, he said he was not aware of any studies that have documented how rare the blue frogs are. Chatfield said layers of pigment cells, called chromatophores, create the color seen.

“They come in three different flavors, if you will,” he said.

The bottom layer of melanophores pigments appears dark brown or black, just as they do in human skin. The next layer of iridophores contains crystals that give off an iridescent reflection. In green frogs, the light that reflects back is blue. That blue light goes through the top layer of cells called xanthophores, which contain yellow pigments. That combination of blue and yellow pigments appear green to the human eye.

Frogs like Konor Dyer’s are missing the top layer of xanthophores, so they look bright blue.

“For whatever reason, this frog was missing its yellow pigments,” Chatfield said. “But it’s genetic and not environmental.”

With the ability to reflect different colors, frogs can disappear into their environment, adjusting to blend with the green grass or the muddy water of a pond.

Chatfield will share more of his expertise on amphibians and reptiles native to Maine at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13, at the University of Maine at Farmington’s North Dining Hall. His talk is free and open to the public.

An associate professor of conservation biology at Unity College, his doctorate is in ecology and evolutionary biology. His interests are in threatened and endangered species, especially amphibians and reptiles, and in habitat destruction, climate change, and amphibian disease.

Konor Dyer, 14, of Strong holds the blue frog he found for entry in the Phillips Old Home Days frog jumping contest last weekend. The color is the result of a missing pigment layer, according to Mathew Chatfield, an associate professor of conservation biology at Unity College. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife posted a picture of the Mt. Abram High School freshman and his find on its Facebook page, with the comment, “One never knows what one might find in the woods and waters of Maine.”

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