Caught and Coloured: Zoology Illustrations from Colonial Victoria

Frogs in the Lab

The lake immediately in front of the laboratory at Melbourne University was occupied by a vociferous colony of what Frederick McCoy called Green Bell Frogs.

Several were captured for closer observation in the lab, with Arthur Bartholomew drawing them in all of their life stages, while the Professor observed variations between the colouration of individuals over time.

Bartholomew's images of what we now know as the Growling Grass Frog are clearly drawn from life, and it is easy to imagine the artist's nose pressed against the glass of the aquaria in an attempt to get as close as possible to the animal.

The skin textures he achieved, particularly of the animals' underbelly, seem almost real. This fine suite of images form a compelling portrait of a previous widespread and common species, whose abundance is now dramatically reduced.

This is one of the most beautifully colored Frogs known, but varies greatly; in early summer it is usually of the richest verdigris-, or pea-, yellow, shining with bright golden-bronze metallic lustre in various parts.... These extremes of bright-green and blackish-brown change one into the other at different times in one individual. For instance the brown specimen, fig 2 on our plate, turned green before the drawing was quite finished; and the beautiful green specimen, fig.1a, escaped after the drawing was colored, and could not be found for some days, when, finding something soft under my foot, I picked up what I thought was an old brown kid glove, and found it was my sitter for the portrait, and put him again into his glass, where he died the next day, first changing into his former vivid pea-green.

Historical Voices:
Growling Grass Frog
Common eastern froglet, Crinia signifera, by Arthur Bartholomew.
Drawing number 234, Wrinkled toadlet, Uperoleia rugosa, by Arthur Bartholomew, 1861.