Published June 6, 2022. Updated December 12, 2023. Open access.

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Mountain Shade-Lizard (Alopoglossus buckleyi)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Alopoglossidae | Alopoglossus buckleyi

English common names: Mountain Shade-Lizard, Buckley’s Shade-Lizard, Buckley’s Teiid.

Spanish common names: Lagartija sombría de montaña, lagartija sombría de Buckley.

Recognition: ♂♂ 15.9 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=6.8 cm. ♀♀ 13.9 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=6.0 cm.. The Buckley’s Shade-Lizard (Alopoglossus buckleyi) is a small, brownish lizard that can be distinguished from other Amazonian leaf-litter lizards by having strongly keeled dorsal scales arranged in oblique rows on the dorsum and arms1,2 and by the absence of occipital and postparietal scales.3 Within its distribution area, A. buckleyi is often confused with A. atriventris, A. carinicaudatus, and A. copii, from which it differs by having granular neck scales, smooth ventral scales,46 and smooth head scales.7,8 Alopoglossus buckleyi differs from Loxopholis parietalis by its larger size, lack of red ventral coloration in adult males, and parietal scales not forming a semicircle.4,9 Adult males of the Mountain Shade-Lizard can be differentiated from adult females by having a black belly (light cream in females).10

Figure showing variation among individuals of Alopoglossus buckleyi

Figure 1: Individuals of Alopoglossus buckleyi from Tzarentza, Pastaza province (); San Pedro, Tungurahua province (); and Cabeceras del Bobonaza, Pastaza province (); Ecuador. j=juvenile.

Natural history: Alopoglossus buckleyi is a frequentlyRecorded weekly in densities below five individuals per locality. encountered lizard that inhabits old-growth to moderately disturbed lowland and foothill rainforests and cloud forests11,12 as well as pastures and plantations adjacent to these forests.11 Mountain Shade-Lizards are diurnal and terrestrial.4,6 During warm sunny days, they forage among leaf-litter4,11 in shaded or partially shaded spots at ground level or on roots up to 20 cm above the ground.11 They may also be seen crossing trails in logged forests.4 During cloudy days and at night, individuals have been found hidden under leaf-litter, logs, rocks, in dirt walls, at the base of dense tall grass, or inside bromeliads.6,11 As a defense mechanism, Mountain Shade-Lizards tend to flee into the leaf-litter or under roots.13 If captured, they can shed the tail or bite.11 The snake Xenoxybelis argenteus is confirmed as predator of A. buckleyi.14

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..15,16 Alopoglossus buckleyi is included in this category mainly on the basis of the species’ wide distribution, presence in protected areas, and presumed large stable populations.15 Thus, the species is considered to be facing no major immediate extinction threats. However, some populations are in areas experiencing forest fires and deforestation caused by large-scale mining and the expansion of the agricultural frontier.17,18

Distribution: Alopoglossus buckleyi is native to the upper Amazon basin and adjacent foothills of the Andes in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador (Fig. 2), and Peru.18

Distribution of Alopoglossus buckleyi in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Alopoglossus buckleyi in Ecuador. The star corresponds to the type locality: Canelos. See Appendix 1 for a complete list of the presence localities included in the map.

Etymology: The generic name Alopoglossus, which is derived from the Greeks words alopekia (=bare) and glossa (=tongue),19 refers to the tongue of lizards of this genus, which lacks scale-like papillae.1,20 The specific epithet buckleyi honors Mr. Clarence Buckley (1832–1885), an English naturalist and explorer who collected the type series of the species.21,22

See it in the wild: Mountain Shade-Lizards can be seen with relative ease in forested areas throughout the species’ area of distribution in Ecuador. These shy reptiles may be spotted during the daytime by scanning the leaf-litter in areas of filtered sunlight reaching the forest floor. At night, they may be located by searching under plant matter or under rocks and logs. In Ecuador, some of the best places to observe Mountain Shade-Lizards are Wildsumaco Wildlife Sanctuary, Narupa Reserve, and Río Anzu Reserve.

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Katherine Cano for helping compile some of the information used in this account.

Special thanks to Shelli Nelligan-Anderson for symbolically adopting the Mountain Shade-Lizard and helping bring the Reptiles of Ecuador book project to life.

Click here to adopt a species.

Author and photographer: Jose VieiraaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,bAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador.

Editor: Alejandro ArteagacAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Vieira J (2022) Mountain Shade-Lizard (Alopoglossus buckleyi). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/YVFD8181

Literature cited:

  1. Harris DM (1994) Review of the teiid lizard genus Ptychoglossus. Herpetological Monographs 8: 226–275. DOI: 10.2307/1467082
  2. Ribeiro-Júnior MA, Choueri E, Lobos S, Venegas P, Torres-Carvajal O, Werneck F (2020) Eight in one: morphological and molecular analyses reveal cryptic diversity in Amazonian alopoglossid lizards (Squamata: Gymnophthalmoidea). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 190: 227–270. DOI: 10.1093/zoolinnean/zlz155
  3. Castro Herrera F, Ayala SC (1988) Saurios de Colombia. Unpublished, Bogotá, 692 pp.
  4. Avila-Pires TCS (1995) Lizards of Brazilian Amazonia (Reptilia: Squamata). Zoologische Verhandelingen 299: 1–706.
  5. Köhler G, Hans-Helmut D, Veselý M (2012) A contribution to the knowledge of the lizard genus Alopoglossus (Squamata: Gymnophthalmidae). Herpetological Monographs 26: 173–188. DOI: 10.1655/HERPMONOGRAPHS-D-10-00011.1
  6. Camper JD, Torres-Carvajal O, Ron SR, Nilsson J, Arteaga A, Knowles TW, Arbogast BS (2021) Amphibians and reptiles of Wildsumaco Wildlife Sanctuary, Napo Province, Ecuador. Check List 17: 729–751.
  7. Duellman WE (1978) The biology of an equatorial herpetofauna in Amazonian Ecuador. Publications of the Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas 65: 1–352.
  8. Duellman WE (1973) Descriptions of new lizards from the upper Amazon basin. Herpetologica 29: 228–231.
  9. Vitt LJ, De la Torre S (1996) A research guide to the lizards of Cuyabeno. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Quito, 165 pp.
  10. Ruibal R (1952) Revisionary studies of some South American Teiidae. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 106: 475–529.
  11. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  12. Almendáriz A (1987) Contribución al conocimiento de la herpetofauna centroriental Ecuatoriana. Revista Politécnica 12: 77–133.
  13. Freile J, Moscoso P, Félix C (2010) La magia de los tepuyes del Nangaritza: una guía para conocer a sus habitantes. Conservación Internacional Ecuador, Quito, 68 pp.
  14. Gasc JP (1977) Liste commentée de lézards capturés en Amazonie colombienne. Bulletin de la Societé Herpétologique de France 102: 267–276.
  15. Calderón M, Perez P, Avila-Pires TCS, Aparicio J, Moravec J (2016) Alopoglossus buckleyi. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T44578087A44578096.en
  16. Reyes-Puig C (2015) Un método integrativo para evaluar el estado de conservación de las especies y su aplicación a los reptiles del Ecuador. MSc thesis, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, 73 pp.
  17. Malhi Y, Roberts JT, Betts RA, Killeen TJ, Li W, Nobre CA (2008) Climate change, deforestation, and the fate of the Amazon. Science 319: 169–172. DOI: 10.1126/science.1146961
  18. Pereira AAA, Guerra V, Barbosa MS, Corrêa F (2021) Distribution extension of Alopoglossus buckleyi (O’Shaughnessy, 1881) (Squamata: Alopoglossidae). Brazilian Journal of Biology 81: 842–844. DOI: 10.1590/1519-6984.231235
  19. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C., 882 pp.
  20. Boulenger GA (1885) Catalogue of the lizards in the British Museum. Taylor & Francis, London, 497 pp.
  21. O’Shaughnessy AWE (1881) An account of the collection of lizards made by Mr. Buckley in Ecuador, and now in the British Museum, with descritions of the new species. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 49: 227–245.
  22. Vane-Right RI (1991) A portrait of Clarence Buckley, zoologist. The Linnean 7: 30–33.

Appendix 1: Locality data used to create the distribution map of Alopoglossus buckleyi in Ecuador (Fig. 2). Go to the section on symbols and abbreviations for a list of acronyms used. Asterisk (*) indicates type locality.

ColombiaCaquetáCerro AguacateGutiérrez-Lamus et al. 2020
ColombiaCaquetáFaldas del Cerro El AguacateSINCHI-R 995
ColombiaCaucaSerranía de los ChurumbelosHernández-Morales et al. 2020
ColombiaPutumayoFinca MariposaHernández-Morales et al. 2020
EcuadorMorona Santiago9 de OctubreTipantiza-Tuguminago et al. 2021
EcuadorMorona SantiagoArutamKöhler et al. 2012
EcuadorMorona SantiagoCabeceras del Río PiuntzaKöhler et al. 2012
EcuadorMorona SantiagoCampamento SopladoraMZUA.Re.0232; examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoChiguazaHernández-Morales et al. 2020
EcuadorMorona SantiagoDestacamento Militar CoangosKöhler et al. 2012
EcuadorMorona SantiagoGuarumalesMZUA.Re.0033; examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoRegion between Río Pastaza and Río SantiagoRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorMorona SantiagoReserva Ecológica El ParaísoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorMorona SantiagoTaishaHernández-Morales et al. 2020
EcuadorMorona SantiagoTrail between Logroño and YaupiKöhler et al. 2012
EcuadorMorona SantiagoVilla AshuaraOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorMorona SantiagoWisuiChaparro et al. 2011
EcuadorNapoBaezaMCZ 166538; VertNet
EcuadorNapoCascada ChiriyacuiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorNapoCocodrilosReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoCordillera de GuacamayosKöhler et al. 2012
EcuadorNapoEstación de bombeo El SaladoKöhler et al. 2012
EcuadorNapoJondachi, 3.5 km W ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorNapoNarupa Reserve, higher trailsReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoNarupa Reserve, lower trailsReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoRefugio Mirador, SumacoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoRío Quijos EcolodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoVía Hollín–Loreto, km 13Avila-Pires 1995
EcuadorNapoWildsumaco Wildlife SanctuaryCamper et al. 2021
EcuadorOrellanaCantón LoretoHernández-Morales et al. 2020
EcuadorOrellanaRío Bigal Biological ReservePhoto by Thierry García
EcuadorPastazaBosque Protector Pablo López de Oglán AltoTobar Quiña 2022
EcuadorPastazaCabeceras del BobonazaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPastazaCampo OglánTorres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorPastazaCanelos*O’Shaughnessy 1881
EcuadorPastazaCavernas del AnzuiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaCentro Ecológico Zanja ArajunoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPastazaComunidad IngaruTorres-Carvajal. 2014
EcuadorPastazaFinca de Peter ArcherPhoto by Yatin Kalki
EcuadorPastazaFinca HeimatlosPhoto by Ferhat Gundogdu
EcuadorPastazaMeraiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaPuyo, 8 km N ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaRío AlpayacuKöhler et al. 2012
EcuadorPastazaRío Anzu ReserveReyes-Puig et al. 2013
EcuadorPastazaSantanaKöhler et al. 2012
EcuadorPastazaShell, 5 km N ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaTinajas del Río AnzuiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaTzarentzaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSucumbíosEl ReventadorRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorTungurahuaReserva La CandelariaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorTungurahuaReserva Río ZuñacYánez-Muñoz et al. 2013
EcuadorTungurahuaSan PedroReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorTungurahuaTrail to Reserva La CandelariaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeBosque Protector del Alto NangaritzaGuayasamin et al. 2011
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeCiudad PerdidaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeEstación Científica San FranciscoMZUA.Re.0131; examined
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeGuayzimi altoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeMiazi AltoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeNuevo ParaísoCarvajal-Campos 2020
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeReserva Forestal El ZarzaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeSubcuenca del Río TundaymeBetancourt et al. 2018
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeTepuy Las OrquídeasReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeValle del QuimiBetancourt et al. 2018
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeYantzazaReptiles of Ecuador book database
PeruAmazonasChiriaco, 20 km SW ofLSUMZ 32580; VertNet
PeruAmazonasHuampamiHernández-Morales et al. 2020
PeruAmazonasKagkaHernández-Morales et al. 2020
PeruAmazonasPaisHernández-Morales et al. 2020
PeruAmazonasPuerto GalileaHernández-Morales et al. 2020
PeruAmazonasShiringaHernández-Morales et al. 2020
PeruAmazonasTeniente López, 1.5 km N ofKöhler et al. 2012
PeruCajamarcaSantuario Nacional Tabaconas NamballeKöhler et al. 2012