Published July 14, 2023. Updated November 20, 2023. Open access. Peer-reviewed.

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Wrinkled Andean-Lizard (Andinosaura vieta)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Gymnophthalmidae | Andinosaura vieta

English common name: Wrinkled Andean-Lizard.

Spanish common name: Lagartija andina vieja.

Recognition: ♂♂ 14.1 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=5.2 cm. ♀♀ 12.9 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=4.8 cm..1 The Wrinkled Andean-Lizard (Andinosaura vieta) differs from most other lizards in its area of distribution by lacking prefrontal scales and by having a light reddish brown dorsum (Fig. 1) with extremities long enough that the front and hind limbs overlap when pressed against the body.1 Adult males of this species have a series of black ocelli (black circles around a white spot) along the flanks.1 This species co-occurs with A. crypta, from which it differs by having a loreal scale and a complete series of superciliary scales.1 Andinosaura vieta differs from A. oculata by having a lower number of lateral scales (3–6 vs 7–11) and by having rugose, rather than striated or keeled, dorsal scales.1

Illustration of an adult male individual of Andinosaura vieta

Figure 1: Illustration of an adult male individual of Andinosaura vieta.

Natural history: Andinosaura vieta is an extremely rare lizard that inhabits old-growth cloudforests.1 Andean-Lizards in general are cryptozoic, meaning they prefer moist, shaded microhabitats such as streams with abundant leaf-litter.2,3 Wrinkled Andean-Lizards have been found active in the leaf-litter or seen crossing dirt roads during the daytime.4 However, based on their morphology, these lizards are presumably able to climb and are at least partly arboreal. Almost nothing is known about their natural history, but other Andinosaura lay clutches of three eggs in holes in the forest floor.2

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Conservation: Endangered Considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the near future..5 Andinosaura vieta is proposed to be listed in this category, instead of Data Deficient,6 on the basis of the species’ limited extent of occurrence (estimated around 7,983 km2) in an area having the highest rate of deforestation in Ecuador.7 No less than 55% of the total suitable habitat of A. vieta has already been converted to pastures and agricultural fields, an environment in which this canopy reptile does not survive. The species has been recorded in privately protected areas,6 but these account for less than 1% of its distribution.

Distribution: Andinosaura vieta is endemic to an area of approximately 7,983 km2 along the Pacific foothills of the Andes in west-central Ecuador (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Andinosaura vieta in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Andinosaura vieta in Ecuador. The star corresponds to the type locality: Las Pampas, Cotopaxi 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.8 The specific epithet vieta is a Latin word meaning “wrinkled” and refers to the wrinkled dorsal scales.1

See it in the wild: Species of the genus Andinosaura are among the most rarely encountered and difficult-to-survey lizards in Ecuador, and A. vieta 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. Over the past 15 years, only two lizards of this species have been recorded. One inadvertently fell into a pitfall trap, while another was observed crossing a dirt road. The locality with the highest number of historical observations is Las Pampas, Cotopaxi province.

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) Wrinkled Andean-Lizard (Andinosaura vieta). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/WLOZ6801

Literature cited:

  1. Kizirian DA (1996) A review of Ecuadorian Proctoporus (Squamata: Gymnophthalmidae) with descriptions of nine new species. Herpetological Monographs 10: 85–155. DOI: 10.2307/1466981
  2. Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Guayasamin JM (2013) The amphibians and reptiles of Mindo. Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica, Quito, 257 pp.
  3. Sánchez-Pacheco SJ, Aguirre-Peñafiel V, Torres-Carvajal O (2012) Lizards of the genus Riama (Squamata: Gymnophthalmidae): the diversity in southern Ecuador revisited. South American Journal of Herpetology 7: 259–275. DOI: 10.2994/057.007.0308
  4. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  5. 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.
  6. Cisneros-Heredia DF, Yánez-Muñoz MH, Sánchez JC, Reyes-Puig C (2016) Andinosaura vieta. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T50950592A50950599.en
  7. MAE (2012) Línea base de deforestación del Ecuador continental. Ministerio del Ambiente del Ecuador, Quito, 30 pp.
  8. 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 vieta in Ecuador (Fig. 2). Go to the section on symbols and abbreviations for a list of acronyms used. Asterisk (*) indicates type locality.

EcuadorBolívarSan Jose de TamboSánchez-Pacheco et al. 2012
EcuadorCotopaxiLas Pampas*Kizirian 1996
EcuadorCotopaxiOtonga ReserveCisneros-Heredia et al. 2016
EcuadorPichinchaMashpi ReserveiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPichinchaTandapiKizirian 1996