ImageThe Coleman Frog, Fredericton’s famous amphibian of local history, has been affectionately referred to as Cornelius Webster for the last two decades. But is our Cornelius actually a Cornelia?

The Question:
Elspeth Burris, our Manager of Education and Interpretation, was posed an interesting question while giving a school tour. A curious young man, questioning the use of “he”, asked how we knew whether the frog was a boy or a girl. With this simple question, the mystery of the Coleman Frog’s gender identity was born.

Boy or Girl?: Investigating the Coleman Frog
The Coleman frog is a bullfrog, the largest breed of frog found in North America. While the Coleman frog reached 42 pounds in weight (due to his/her love of whiskey and cornmeal), the average bullfrog usually weighs just over a pound.

There are several ways to tell whether bullfrogs are male or female. One is their chirping calls. The male frogs make these croaking noises to try to attract females. Unfortunately, the Coleman frog has remained silent for well over 100 years. The second way of telling whether a bullfrog is male or female is by the colour of the underside of their chin. The males have a bright yellow underside, and the females have a lighter coloured underside. Due to age of the Coleman Frog, and the repairs done to it, it is almost impossible to tell the true colour of Cornelius’ chin.

The final way to tell whether a bullfrog is male or female is by the size of the tympanic membrane. This membrane acts as an ear, and is the large circular spot located on the side of a frogs head. On male frogs, the membrane is significantly larger than the eye, while on female frogs, the membrane is approximately the same size as the eye. On our friend the Coleman Frog, the membrane is the same size as the eye socket, leading to one conclusion…

It’s a Girl!
Congratulations Fredericton Region Museum, you are now the proud guardian of a big baby girl. Cornelia Webster is officially welcomed to the Museum as the legendary pet of Fred Coleman.

You can visit and learn about Cornelia at the Fredericton Region Museum Tuesday-Saturday between 1-4 p.m. until the end of June. Or come visit her this summer (starting July 1st), any day of the week between 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. We “hop” to see you soon!


Biological and frog information provided by:

Bruening, Sandra, Cynthia Sims Parr, and Allison Poor. “North American Bullfrog.” BioKids University of Michigan, 2013. Accessed June 15, 2013.