Published April 26, 2023. Updated December 12, 2023. Open access.

Gallery ❯

Drab Shade-Lizard (Alopoglossus copii)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Alopoglossidae | Alopoglossus copii

English common name: Drab Shade-Lizard.

Spanish common names: Lagartija sombría cenicienta, lagartija de sombra tuberculada.

Recognition: ♂♂ 15.7 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=6.8 cm. ♀♀ 18.3 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=8.0 cm..1,2 Alopoglossus copii can be distinguished from other Amazonian leaf-litter lizards by having keels on posterior dorsal scales forming longitudinal ridges (Fig. 1),1 keeled arm scales,3 and by the absence of occipital and postparietal scales.4 Alopoglossus copii further differs from A. atriventris, A. carinicaudatus, and A. buckleyi by having granular scales on the side of the neck, keeled ventral scales, and smooth head scales.1,5,6 Loxopholis parietalis differs from A. copii by its smaller size, red belly in adult males, and posterior parietal scales forming a semicircle.7

Figure showing variation among individuals of Alopoglossus copii

Figure 1: Individuals of Alopoglossus copii from Ecuador: Canelos, Pastaza province (); Pitalala Reserve, Napo province (); and Gareno, Napo province (). j=juvenile.

Natural history: Alopoglossus copii is an uncommonly recorded lizard that is nevertheless locally frequent in select microhabitats within old-growth to moderately disturbed lowland rainforests. The species occurs in higher densities near water, such as along streams and swampy areas.2 Drab Shade-Lizards are active in the leaf-litter, at the base of large trees, under logs or stones, and among crevices.2 When disturbed, these shy reptiles flee into the leaf-litter, escape among tree roots, or jump into water; if captured, they can shed the tail or bite.2

Reader support helps us keep the Reptiles of Ecuador book 100% free.

Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..8 Alopoglossus copii is included in this category mainly on the basis of the species’ wide distribution, presence in protected areas, and presumed large stable populations.8 Thus, the species is considered to be facing no major immediate extinction threats. However, some populations are in areas experiencing degradation due to oil extraction and agricultural activities.8

Distribution: Alopoglossus copii is native to the upper Amazon basin of Colombia and Ecuador (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Alopoglossus copii in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Alopoglossus copii 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 is derived from the Greek words alopekia (=bare) and glossa (=tongue)9 and refers to the lack of scale-like papillae in the tongue of these lizards.10,11 The specific epithet copii honors American zoologist and paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope (1840–1897), in recognition of his immense contributions in the field of herpetology. A prolific author, he produced an impressive body of work with 1,400 papers published and over 1,000 vertebrate species described.

See it in the wild: Drab Shade-Lizards can be seen with relative ease in the vicinity of the type locality Canelos, Pastaza province. These shy reptiles can be found by raking the leaf-litter and turning over logs along bodies of water in well-preserved forest habitats.

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

Special thanks to Marco Narváez for symbolically adopting the Drab Shade-Lizard and helping bring the Reptiles of Ecuador book project to life.

Click here to adopt a species.

Authors: Jose VieiraaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,bAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador. and Alejandro ArteagacAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

Photographers: Jose VieiraaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,bAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador. and Alejandro Arteaga,cAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador. and Amanda Quezada,aAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,dAffiliation: Laboratorio de Herpetología, Universidad del Azuay, Cuenca, Ecuador.

How to cite? Vieira J, Arteaga A (2023) Drab Shade-Lizard (Alopoglossus copii). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/XQMN8003

Literature cited:

  1. 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
  2. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  3. 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
  4. Castro Herrera F, Ayala SC (1988) Saurios de Colombia. Unpublished, Bogotá, 692 pp.
  5. Avila-Pires TCS (1995) Lizards of Brazilian Amazonia (Reptilia: Squamata). Zoologische Verhandelingen 299: 1–706.
  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. Cisneros-Heredia DF, Perez J, Gagliardi G (2014) Alopoglossus copii. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T44578102A44578105.en
  9. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C., 882 pp.
  10. Harris DM (1994) Review of the teiid lizard genus Ptychoglossus. Herpetological Monographs 8: 226–275. DOI: 10.2307/1467082
  11. Boulenger GA (1885) Catalogue of the lizards in the British Museum. Taylor & Francis, London, 497 pp.

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

ColombiaCaquetáVia Florencia–SuazaUAM-R-0428; Ruiz Valderrama 2021
ColombiaPutumayoCentro Experimental AmazónicoBetancourth-Cundar & Gutiérrez-Zamora 2010
EcuadorNapoGarenoThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorNapoHuella Verde LodgeThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorNapoJardín AlemanQCAZ 5969; Carvajal-Campos et al. 2013
EcuadorNapoPitalala, mesetaThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorNapoRío CotopinoKöhler et al. 2012
EcuadorNapoSuchipakariReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorOrellanaLoretoKöhler et al. 2012
EcuadorOrellanaRío BununoKöhler et al. 2012
EcuadorPastazaCampamento K10Carvajal & Lobos 2014
EcuadorPastazaCanelos*Boulenger 1885
EcuadorPastazaJuyuintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaKurintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaPozo Garza 1QCAZ 1554; Carvajal-Campos et al. 2013
EcuadorPastazaPucayacu (Río Pucayacu)USNM 196066; VertNet
EcuadorPastazaRío PindoHernández-Morales et al. 2020
EcuadorPastazaSacha YakuReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPastazaSantanaPhoto by Paul Freed
EcuadorPastazaSarayacuKöhler et al. 2012
EcuadorSucumbíosDurenoYánez-Muñoz & Chimbo 2007
EcuadorSucumbíosLa BarquillaCampos et al. 2001
EcuadorSucumbíosLago AgrioLSUMZ 12657