Published April 29, 2023. Updated December 22, 2023. Open access.

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Equatorial Anole (Anolis aequatorialis)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Anolidae | Anolis aequatorialis

English common name: Equatorial Anole.

Spanish common name: Anolis ecuatoriano.

Recognition: ♂♂ 33.7 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=8.6 cm. ♀♀ 33.0 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=8.3 cm..1,2 Anoles are easily distinguishable from other lizards by their diurnal habits, extensible dewlap in males, expanded digital pads, and granular scales on the dorsum and belly.3 The Equatorial Anole (Anolis aequatorialis) can be identified from other co-occurring anoles based on its large size, mossy dorsal coloration, and its large, spectacularly colored marbled dewlap (Fig. 1), which is smaller in females.4,5 Anolis aequatorialis is most similar to Anolis dracula, but this species occurs in extreme northwestern Ecuador.5 Anolis ventrimaculatus can be confused with A. aequatorialis, but it can be recognized by its mottled belly and dewlap lacking black reticulations.6

Figure showing variation among individuals of Anolis aequatorialis

Figure 1: Individuals of Anolis aequatorialis from Ecuador: Otonga Reserve, Cotopaxi province (); Cascada de Angas, Bolívar province (); and Santa Lucía Reserve, Pichincha province (). j=juvenile.

Natural history: Anolis aequatorialis is an extremely common,7 almost ubiquitous, anole in old-growth to moderately disturbed evergreen montane forests and cloud forests.4 The species also occurs marginally in semi-open habitats such as in forest clearings and along roads.1 During the day, when the ambient temperature is 18.5–22°C,8,9 these understory anoles are active on mossy vegetation 40–350 cm above the ground,4,7 although they also crawl at ground level on occasion.4 At night, they prefer to sleep on broad leaves, but also on ferns and branches that will move if disturbed by a predator.4,7 Equatorial anoles inhabit moist, shaded, moss-covered microhabitats that are too cold for most other anole species.1 Their activity begins at around 6:00 am, even during chilly mornings.1 Individuals actively seek broad leaves where they can bask on filtered sunlight.1 Equatorial Anoles are ambush predators and their diet is insectivorous: lacewings,10 flies,11 and wasps12 have been recorded as prey items.4 However, they may also voluntarily consume flowers and other plant matter.4 These perfectly camouflaged reptiles change their dorsal coloration when disturbed, going from bright green to yellowish brown.1 They will also sometimes bite when handled. There are at least two unpublished photographic records of Andean cock-of-the-rocks (Rupicola peruvianus) preying upon individuals of A. aequatorialis.13,14 Equatorial Anoles are oviparous. One adult female in Ecuador laid a clutch of one egg that turned into a fully developed embryo after 83 days.15 Males defend territories and court females using visual signals such as head bobs and dewlap display.1

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..15 Anolis aequatorialis is listed in this category given its presence in protected areas, lack of major widespread threats, and distribution over an area that retains the majority (~59%; Fig. 2) of its original forest cover.15 This species is one of the most abundant anoles wherever it occurs and does not appear to be declining.16

Distribution: Anolis aequatorialis is endemic to an estimated area of 6,141 km2 along the Pacific slopes of the Andes in Ecuador (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Anolis aequatorialis in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Anolis aequatorialis in Ecuador. The star corresponds to the type locality: Chillogallo–Chiriboga road, Pichincha province. See Appendix 1 for a complete list of the presence localities included in the map.

Etymology: The generic name Anolis is thought to have originated from Cariban languages, specifically from the word anoli, which is the name Arawak peoples may have used to refer to this group of lizards.17 The specific epithet aequatorialis refers to the type locality: Ecuador.4

See it in the wild: Probably the best locality to find Equatorial Anoles is the cloud forest area around the town Mindo, Pichincha province. Although these lizards are active during the day, they are more easily located at night, as they will be roosting on low vegetation where their bright green coloration stands out when lit with a flashlight.

Special thanks to Peter Mudde for symbolically adopting the Equatorial Anole and helping bring the Reptiles of Ecuador book project to life.

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

Photographer: Jose VieirabAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,cAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A (2023) Equatorial Anole (Anolis aequatorialis). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/ETTQ6638

Literature cited:

  1. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  2. Williams EE, Rand H, Rand AS, O’Hara RJ (1995) A computer approach to the comparision and identification of species in difficult taxonomic groups. Breviora 502: 1–47.
  3. Peters JA, Donoso-Barros R (1970) Catalogue of the Neotropical Squamata: part II, lizards and amphisbaenians. Bulletin of the United States National Museum, Washington, D.C., 293 pp.
  4. Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Guayasamin JM (2013) The amphibians and reptiles of Mindo. Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica, Quito, 257 pp.
  5. Yánez-Muñoz MH, Reyes-Puig C, Reyes-Puig JP, Velasco JA, Ayala-Varela F, Torres-Carvajal O (2018) A new cryptic species of Anolis lizard from northwestern South America (Iguanidae, Dactyloinae). ZooKeys 794: 135–163. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.794.26936
  6. Ayala-Varela F, Velasco JA, Calderón-Espinosa M, Arteaga AF, Sagredo Y, Valverde S (2015) First records of Anolis ventrimaculatus Boulenger, 1911 (Squamata: Iguanidae) in Ecuador. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 8: 136–140.
  7. Ramírez-Jaramillo S (2018) Microhábitats nocturnos en dos especies de Anolis (Iguania: Dactyloidae) al noroccidente de Pichincha, Ecuador. Revista Biodiversidad Neotropical 8: 7–13.
  8. Savit AZ (2006) Reptiles of the Santa Lucía Cloud Forest, Ecuador. Iguana 13: 94–103.
  9. Fitch HS, Echelle AF, Echelle AA (1976) Field observations on rare or little known mainland anoles. The University of Kansas Science Bulletin 5: 91–128. DOI: 10.5962/bhl.part.24957
  10. Photo by Jorge Castillo.
  11. James Christensen, pers. comm.
  12. Photo by Jan Sveide.
  13. Photo by Eduardo Zavala.
  14. Photo by Murray Cooper.
  15. Ayala-Varela F, Carvajal-Campos A, Rodríguez-Guerra A (2022) Anolis aequatorialis. In: Torres-Carvajal O, Pazmiño-Otamendi G, Ayala-Varela F, Salazar-Valenzuela D (Eds) Reptiles del Ecuador. Museo de Zoología, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador. Available from:
  16. Castañeda MR, Velasco J (2020) Anolis aequatorialis. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T44551013A44551887.en
  17. Allsopp R (1996) Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 776 pp.

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

EcuadorBolívarCascadas de Angas, 1.9 km E ofReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorBolívarChontapambaArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorBolívarRecinto San FranciscoArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorBolívarSector Piedra BlancaPhoto by Eduardo Zavala
EcuadorBolívarTelimbela, 4 km E ofReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorCotopaxiHacienda La MarielaYánez-Muñoz et al. 2018
EcuadorCotopaxiLas DamasArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorCotopaxiLas PampasArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorCotopaxiPilaló, 12 km W ofArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorCotopaxiQuillotuña–Pucayacu roadArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorCotopaxiReserva OtongaArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorImbaburaConcesión Minera CascabelAyala-Varela et al. 2022
EcuadorImbaburaJunínArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorImbaburaJunín, 4 km N ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorImbaburaLita, 6 km SW ofReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorImbaburaManduriacu ReserveLynch et al. 2014
EcuadorImbaburaReserva Biológica Los CedrosiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPichinchaAbove TandayapaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaBellavista LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaBirdwatcher’s HouseReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaBosque Protector CambugánYánez-Muñoz et al. 2009
EcuadorPichinchaCascadas de MindoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaChillogallo–Chiriboga road*Cisneros-Heredia 2017
EcuadorPichinchaDos Ríos, 4 km NE ofArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaEl GolánYánez-Muñoz et al. 2018
EcuadorPichinchaEl Monte LodgeMorley Read, pers. comm.
EcuadorPichinchaEstación Biológica Río BravoYánez-Muñoz et al. 2018
EcuadorPichinchaFinca ElenitaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaHacienda La HesperiaBrouwer 2018
EcuadorPichinchaLa Unión–Río CintoYánez-Muñoz et al. 2009
EcuadorPichinchaLas TolasYánez-Muñoz et al. 2018
EcuadorPichinchaLlamboArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaMindo Garden LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaMindo Lindo LodgePhoto by Heike Brieschke
EcuadorPichinchaMindo, 3.5 km NE ofArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaNanegalitoArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaPactoArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaQuebrada la PlataArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaReserva Las GralariasReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaReserva Las TangarasArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaReserva MaquipucunaLópez & Barragán 1998
EcuadorPichinchaReserva Orquideológica PahumaYánez-Muñoz et al. 2018
EcuadorPichinchaReserva TamboquindeYánez-Muñoz et al. 2018
EcuadorPichinchaRío ChisincheYánez-Muñoz et al. 2018
EcuadorPichinchaSachatamia LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaSanta Lucía ReserveTolhurst et al. 2016
EcuadorPichinchaSaragozaRamírez-Jaramillo 2018
EcuadorPichinchaSéptimo ParaísoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaTandapiArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaYellow House LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasBosque Protector Río GuajalitoYánez-Muñoz et al. 2018
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasChiriboga–Las Palmas roadArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasFinca La FavoritaYánez-Muñoz et al. 2018
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasRío FaisanesArteaga et al. 2013