Published July 8, 2020. Updated March 20, 2022. Open access Peer-reviewed.

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Ocellated Andean-Lizard (Andinosaura oculata)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Gymnophthalmidae | Andinosaura | Andinosaura oculata

English common names: Ocellated Andean-Lizard, Tropical Lightbulb Lizard.

Spanish common names: Lagartija andina ocelada.

Recognition: ♂♂ 27.3 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. ♀♀ 23.7 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail.. The Ocellated Andean-Lizard (Andinosaura oculata) is distinguishable 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 Adult males are larger and are easily recognizable by their reddish flanks with ocelli consisting of a black circle with a white spot in the middle. Adult females are brownish overall and lack ocelli. The most similar species is A. hyposticta, which has characteristic black ventral surfaces densely stippled with yellow pigment.2 The lizards Riama colomaromani and R. yumborum have front and hind limbs that cannot reach each other.3

Figure showing variation among individuals of Andinosaura oculata

Figure 1: Individuals of Andinosaura oculata from Séptimo Paraíso Lodge (), Santa Lucía Ecological Reserve (), and Cascadas de Mindo (), Pichincha province, Ecuador. sa=subadult, j=juvenile.

Natural history: UncommonUnlikely to be seen more than once every few months. to locally frequentRecorded weekly in densities below five individuals per locality.. Andinosaura oculata is a cryptozoic (preferring moist, shaded microhabitats such as streams with abundant leaf-litter)1 lizard that inhabits old-growth to moderately disturbed evergreen montane forests, cloudforests, sugarcane plantations, and pastures with scattered trees.1,4 Ocellated Andean-Lizards are often seen at ground level during the daytime (mostly under leaf-litter or on soil, moss, and grass), but they can also climb, presumably using their prehensile (capable of grasping)4 tail, to buttress roots and tree trunks up to 15 m above the ground level.1 When not active, individuals of A. oculata hide under leaf-litter, logs, and rocks.1 Occasionally, individuals have also been seen active at night.5,6 Adult males are territorial; they fight aggressively against each other by biting and pushing the opponent.6 Females lay up to three eggs in holes in the forest floor.1 When threatened, Ocellated Andean-Lizards flee into leaf-litter. If captured, they may bite or readily shed the tail.6 There are records of snakes (Erythrolamprus vitti, Mastigodryas pulchriceps, and Tantilla fraseri) preying upon the adults or eggs of A. oculata.1,7,8 Predation by owls has also been recorded.9

Conservation: Near Threatened Not currently at risk of extinction, but requires some level of management to maintain healthy populations.. Andinosaura oculata is proposed to be assigned in this category, instead of Endangered,10 following IUCN criteria11 because the species has now been recorded at 27 localities (including 15 protected areas) and it is distributed over an area which retains most (~73.3%) of its forest cover. Therefore, the species is considered to be facing no major immediate extinction threats. However, some populations of A. oculata are likely to be declining due to deforestation by logging12 and large-scale mining, especially in the provinces Carchi and Imbabura,13 where only four populations of the species are known.

Distribution: Andinosaura oculata is endemic to an estimated ~5,463 km2 area in the Pacific slopes of the Andes in northwestern Ecuador. The species occurs at elevations between 1432 and 2180 m (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Andinosaura oculata in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Andinosaura oculata in Ecuador. 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 (meaning “lizard”), refers to the distribution of this group of lizards.14 The specific epithet oculata, which comes from the Latin words oculus (meaning “eye”) and the suffix -atus (meaning “provided with”), may be a reference to the lateral ocelli of the species.1

See it in the wild: Ocellated Andean-Lizards are recorded rarely, no more than once every few months, probably due to their secretive and presumed arboreal habits. At Santa Lucía Ecological Reserve, however, lizards of this species may be recorded weakly with ~10–25% certainty when sampling leaf litter during periods of at least four hours.

Acknowledgments: Special thanks to Connor Sullivan and Tony Nunnery for providing locality data and information about the natural history of Andinosaura oculata. This account was published with the support of Secretaría Nacional de Educación Superior Ciencia y Tecnología (programa INEDITA; project: Respuestas a la crisis de biodiversidad: la descripción de especies como herramienta de conservación; No 00110378), Programa de las Naciones Unidas (PNUD), and Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ).

Author: Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Biodiversity Field Lab, Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

Academic reviewer: Simon MaddockbAffiliation: Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, United Kingdom.

Photographers: Jose VieiraaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,bAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador. and Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Biodiversity Field Lab, Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A (2020) Ocellated Andean-Lizard (Andinosaura oculata). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J, Guayasamin JM (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/NDQZ5372

Literature cited:

  1. Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Guayasamin JM (2013) The amphibians and reptiles of Mindo. Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica, Quito, 257 pp.
  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. DOI: 10.1206/3719.2
  3. Doan TM, Castoe TA (2005) Phylogenetic taxonomy of the Cercosaurini (Squamata: Gymnophthalmidae), with new genera for species of Neusticurus and Proctoporus. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 143: 405–416. DOI: 10.1111/j.1096-3642.2005.00145.x
  4. Maddock ST, Smith EF, Peck MR, Morales JN (2011) Riama oculata: prehensile tail and new habitat type. Herpetological Review 42: 277–278.
  5. Reyes-Puig C, Meza-Ramos PA, Dueñas MR, Bejarano-Muñoz P, Ramírez-Jaramillo SM, Reyes-Puig JP, Yánez-Muñoz MH (2015) Guía de identificación de anfibios y reptiles comunes de la Estación Experimental La Favorita. Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, Quito, 79 pp.
  6. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  7. Maigua-Salas S, Betancourt R, Yánez-Muñoz MH (2019) Erythrolamprus vitti. Diet and behavior. Herpetological Review 50: 156–157.
  8. Maddock ST, Smith EF, Peck MR, Morales JN (2011) Tantilla melanocephala (Black-headed Snake). Diet. Herpetological Review 42: 620.
  9. Dueñas MR, Valencia JH (2019) Andinosaura oculata (Tropical Lightbulb Lizard). Predation. Herpetological Review 50: 134.
  10. Cisneros-Heredia DF, Valencia J, Brito J, Almendáriz A, Munoz G (2017) Riama oculata. The IUCN red list of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-2.RLTS.T178672A54447131.en
  11. IUCN (2001) IUCN Red List categories and criteria: Version 3.1. IUCN Species Survival Commission, Gland and Cambridge, 30 pp.
  12. Tolhurst BA, Aguirre Peñafiel V, Mafla-Endara P, Berg MJ, Peck MR, Maddock ST (2016) Lizard diversity in response to human-induced disturbance in Andean Ecuador. Herpetological Journal 26: 33–39.
  13. Guayasamin JM, Cisneros-Heredia DF, Vieira J, Kohn S, Gavilanes G, Lynch RL, Hamilton PS, Maynard RJ (2019) A new glassfrog (Centrolenidae) from the Choco-Andean Rio Manduriacu Reserve, Ecuador, endangered by mining. PeerJ 7: e6400. DOI: 10.7717/peerj.6400
  14. 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

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

EcuadorCarchiDracula ReserveFundación EcoMinga’s blog
EcuadorCotopaxiBosque Integral OtongaDavid Salazar, pers. comm.
EcuadorCotopaxiLas DamasArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorCotopaxiLas PampasKizirian 1996
EcuadorImbaburaIntagKizirian 1996
EcuadorImbaburaManduriacu ReserveThis work
EcuadorImbaburaSanta CeciliaMaigua-Salas et al. 2019
EcuadorPichinchaBellavista LodgeThis work
EcuadorPichinchaBosque Protector Mindo-NambilloiNaturalist
EcuadorPichinchaCascadas de MindoPhoto by Peter Muddle
EcuadorPichinchaCascadas de NambilloDueñas & Valencia 2019
EcuadorPichinchaCooperativa Primero de MayoPhoto by Segundo Imba
EcuadorPichinchaHacienda San VicenteThis work
EcuadorPichinchaLas Gralarias ReserveThis work
EcuadorPichinchaLas Tangaras ReserveOnline multimedia
EcuadorPichinchaLos ArmadillosArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaMindo-Nambillo Protected ForestArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaNanegal, vicinity ofSánchez-Pacheco et al. (2012)
EcuadorPichinchaNanegalitoArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaNanegalito, 3 km E ofSánchez-Pacheco et al. (2012)
EcuadorPichinchaPacha Quindi Nature RefugeThis work
EcuadorPichinchaReserva IntillactaiNaturalist
EcuadorPichinchaSanta Lucía Ecological Reserve, cascada 3Connor Sullivan, pers. comm.
EcuadorPichinchaSanta Lucía Ecological Reserve, cerca de la piedra de lavarConnor Sullivan, pers. comm.
EcuadorPichinchaSanta Lucía Ecological Reserve, potreroConnor Sullivan, pers. comm.
EcuadorPichinchaSaragoza–Río CintoMECN 2009
EcuadorPichinchaSéptimo Paraíso LodgeThis work
EcuadorPichinchaTamboquindeMECN 2009
EcuadorPichinchaTandapiKizirian 1996
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasEstación Experimental La FavoritaReyes-Puig et al. 2015