Published July 13, 2023. Updated November 17, 2023. Open access. Peer-reviewed.

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Blotchbelly Andean-Lizard (Andinosaura hyposticta)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Gymnophthalmidae | Andinosaura hyposticta

English common name: Blotchbelly Andean-Lizard.

Spanish common name: Lagartija andina ventripunteada.

Recognition: ♂♂ 18.8 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=8.2 cm..1,2 The Blotchbelly Andean-Lizard (Andinosaura hyposticta) differs from most other lizards in its area of distribution by lacking prefrontal scales and having extremities long enough that the front and hind limbs overlap when pressed against its body.1,2 Adult males have a reddish brown dorsum with a series of black ocelli (black circles around a yellow spot), black lips with yellow bars, and a blackish belly with conspicuous transverse yellow bars and spots (Fig. 1).1,2 Adult females are unknown, but are probably brownish overall and lack ocelli. The most similar species is A. oculata, but its belly is light grayish brown or cream with no contrasting yellow markings.

Illustration of an adult male individual of Andinosaura hyposticta

Figure 1: Illustration of an adult male individual of Andinosaura hyposticta based on specimens from Ecuador.

Natural history: Andinosaura hyposticta is an extremely rare lizard that inhabits old-growth cloudforests.1 Blotchbelly Andean-Lizards are cryptozoic, meaning they prefer moist, shaded microhabitats such as streams with abundant leaf-litter.3 Individuals have been found in leaf-litter during the daytime, but they can also climb and are presumably entirely arboreal. Almost nothing is known about their natural history, but other closely related Andinosaura lay clutches of three eggs in holes in the forest floor.4

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Conservation: Data Deficient There is inadequate information to make an assessment of extinction risk..5 Andinosaura hyposticta is included in the DD category because there is inadequate information to make an assessment of its extinction risk based on its scarce distribution and natural history data. The species is known from five localities separated from each other by areas having adequate cloud forest cover, suggesting it might be present elsewhere. The most important threat to all populations seems to be deforestation due to gold mining and the expansion of the agricultural frontier.

Distribution: Andinosaura hyposticta is known from five localities along the Pacific slopes of the Andes in northwestern Ecuador (Fig. 2) and southwestern Colombia.

Distribution of Andinosaura hyposticta in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Andinosaura hyposticta in Ecuador. The star corresponds to the type locality: Paramba, Imbabura province. See Appendix 1 for a complete list of the presence localities included in the map.

Etymology: The generic name Andinosaura, which comes from the Spanish word andino (from the Andes) and the Latin sauria (=lizard), refers to the distribution of this group of lizards.6 The specific epithet hyposticta comes from the Greek words hypo (=beneath) and stiktos (=spotted)7 and refers to the ventral pattern.1

See it in the wild: Species of the genus Andinosaura are among the most rarely encountered lizards in Ecuador and A. hyposticta is no exception. Due to the species’ secretive and arboreal habits, individuals are encountered usually only by accident and no more than once every few months. Only five lizards of this species have ever been recorded and no more than one per locality.

Author: Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

Academic reviewer: Jeffrey D CamperbAffiliation: Department of Biology, Francis Marion University, Florence, USA.

Illustrator: Valentina Nieto Fernández

How to cite? Arteaga A (2023) Blotchbelly Andean-Lizard (Andinosaura hyposticta). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/PTZY1274

Literature cited:

  1. Boulenger GA (1902) Descriptions of new batrachians and reptiles from north-western Ecuador. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 9: 51–57. DOI: 10.1080/00222930208678538
  2. Sánchez-Pacheco SJ, Kizirian DA, Sales-Nunes PM (2011) A new species of Riama from Ecuador previously referred to as Riama hyposticta (Boulenger, 1902) (Squamata: Gymnophthalmidae). American Museum Novitates 3719: 1–15.
  3. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  4. Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Guayasamin JM (2013) The amphibians and reptiles of Mindo. Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica, Quito, 257 pp.
  5. Bolívar W, Cisneros-Heredia DF, Velasco J (2013) Andinosaura hyposticta. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-2.RLTS.T44578768A44578777.en
  6. Sánchez‐Pacheco SJ, Torres‐Carvajal O, Aguirre‐Peñafiel V, Sales-Nunes PM, Verrastro L, Rivas GA, Rodrigues MT, Grant T, Murphy RW (2017) Phylogeny of Riama (Squamata: Gymnophthalmidae), impact of phenotypic evidence on molecular datasets, and the origin of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta endemic fauna. Cladistics 34: 260–291. DOI: 10.1111/cla.12203
  7. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C., 882 pp.

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

ColombiaNariñoReserva Natural Río ÑambíSánchez-Pacheco et al. 2011
EcuadorImbaburaComuna BrillasolPhoto by Eduardo Obando
EcuadorImbaburaManduriacuReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorImbaburaParamba*Sánchez-Pacheco et al. 2011
EcuadorPichinchaHacienda San VicenteiNaturalist; photo examined