Published November 23, 2021. Updated December 22, 2023. Open access.

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Anchicayá Anole (Anolis anchicayae)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Anolidae | Anolis anchicayae

English common name: Anchicayá Anole.

Spanish common name: Anolis de Anchicayá.

Recognition: ♂♂ 19.5 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=6.3 cm. ♀♀ 17.4 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=5.6 cm..1 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.2 Anolis anchicayae is a small green-yellowish anole with an irregular pattern of brown marks on the body and a saffron yellow dewlap.1 It can be differentiated from other co-occurring species of Anolis by its small size, dewlap coloration, and blue iris. Anolis peraccae and Anolis fasciatus can easily be confused with A. anchicayae, but in males of these other anoles, the dewlap is whitish, instead of yellowish, and their coloration is pale tan or greenish instead of yellowish. Males of the Anchicayá Anole can be differentiated from females by having more slender bodies, an extensible dewlap, and a thickening at the base of the tail due to the presence of the hemipenes

Figure showing variation among individuals of Anolis anchicayae

Figure 1: Individuals of Anolis anchicayae: Siete Cascadas, Carchi province, Ecuador (); Morromico Lodge, Chocó department, Colombia ().

Natural history: Anolis anchicayae is an extremely rare anole in Ecuador, where there are only two records. However, it appears to be a locally commonRecorded weekly in densities above five individuals per locality. species in some parts of Colombia. Anolis anchicayae inhabits old-growth to moderately disturbed evergreen lowland and foothill forests in the Chocó biome.3,4 It is a diurnal and arboreal species that prefers to forage on vertical trunks of large trees, especially those devoid of mosses, lianas, or epiphytes.4,5 However, individuals can also use branches with abundant bromeliads,4,6 twigs, or leaves, from ground level up to 8 meters high.4,5 Anchicayá Anoles sleep perched on leaves, branches, or among moss at 2–8 m above the ground.4 As a defense mechanism, these lizards usually run vertically or horizontally along tree trunks and jump to different branches or trees. For this reason, they prefer trunks devoid of epiphytes that can hinder their escape.4 The clutch size in this species is not known, but the majority of Ecuadorian anoles lay one egg at a time.

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances.. Anolis anchicayae is proposed to be listed in this category because it is widely distributed, especially over areas that have not been heavily affected by deforestation, like the Colombian Pacific coast.7 The species appears to have stable populations and is also present in several protected areas in Colombia. However, the status of Ecuadorian populations is uncertain and the scarcity of records in this country could be due to the species’ arboreal habits or to actual low population densities.

Distribution: Anolis anchicayae is native to the Chocoan lowlands and adjacent Andean foothills, from Chocó department in Colombia, to Imbabura and Carchi provinces in Ecuador (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Anolis anchicayae in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Anolis anchicayae in Ecuador. The type locality is San Isidro, valle del río Anchicayá, Colombia. 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.8 The specific epithet anchicayae refers to the type locality: Río Anchicayá valley in Colombia.1

See it in the wild: Anchicayá Anoles are extremely difficult to find in Ecuador. Siete Cascadas, Imbabura province, is the only place where they have been recorded recently.

Acknowledgments: Special thanks to Pablo Montoya for his companionship in the field and to Lina Parra for helping compile information used in this account.

Author and photographer: Jose VieiraaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,bAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador.

Editor: Alejandro ArteagacAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Vieira J (2021) Anchicayá Anole (Anolis anchicayae). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/DWSZ1217

Literature cited:

  1. Poe S, Velasco J, Miyata K, Williams EE (2009) Descriptions of two nomen nudum species of Anolis lizard from Northwestern South America. Breviora 516: 1–16.
  2. 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.
  3. Mosquera JTR, Moreno LER (2011) Reptiles del departamento del Chocó, Colombia. Revista Biodiversidad Neotropical 1: 38–47.
  4. Jose Vieira, field observation.
  5. Rengifo JT, Castro Herrera F, Purroy Iraizos FJ (2015) Habitat use and ecomorphology relation of an assemblage of Anolis (Lacertilia: Dactyloidae) in the Chocoan natural region from Colombia. Acta Zoológica Mexicana 31: 159–172.
  6. Cortés Gómez AM, Valencia Aguilar A, Torres Domínguez DM, García Calderón LM, Villaquirán Martínez DF, Cáceres Franco AP, Castro Herrera F (2010) Guía de los anfibios y reptiles. Área en conservación de la microcuenca Quebrada Pericos. Corporación Autónoma Regional del Valle del Cauca, Santiago de Cali, 37 pp.
  7. Hansen MC, Potapov PV, Moore R, Hancher M, Turubanova SA, Tyukavina A, Thau D, Stehman SV, Goetz SJ, Loveland TR, Kommareddy A, Egorov A, Chini L, Justice CO, Townshend JRG (2013) High-resolution global maps of 21st-century forest cover change. Science 342: 850–853. DOI: 10.1126/science.1244693
  8. 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 anchicayae in Ecuador (Fig. 2). Go to the section on symbols and abbreviations for a list of acronyms used.

ColombiaNariñoEl PitalICN 3724
ColombiaNariñoImbilíICN 3718
ColombiaNariñoTangarialPoe et al. 2009
Ecuador CarchiSiete CascadasThis work
Ecuador ImbaburaRío GuaycuyacuEPN 4485; Velasco & Hurtado-Gómez 2014