Published May 2, 2023. Updated December 22, 2023. Open access.

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Dracula Anole (Anolis dracula)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Anolidae | Anolis dracula

English common name: Dracula Anole.

Spanish common name: Anolis Drácula.

Recognition: ♂♂ 33.0 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=9.9 cm. ♀♀ 29.6 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=8.2 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 The Dracula Anole (Anolis dracula) 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.1 Anolis dracula is most similar to A. aequatorialis, but the two species are not known to co-occur.1 Anolis ventrimaculatus co-occurs and can be confused with A. dracula, but it can be recognized by its mottled belly and dewlap lacking black reticulations.3

Figure showing variation among individuals of Anolis dracula

Figure 1: Individuals of Anolis dracula from Carchi province, Ecuador: Chilma Bajo () and Gualpi–Chical road (). j=juvenile.

Natural history: Anolis dracula is usually the most common anole in the areas where it occurs.1,4 The species inhabits old-growth to moderately disturbed evergreen montane forests and cloud forests as well as forest edge and pastures with scattered trees.1,4 During sunny days, these understory anoles are active at ground level or on low vegetation.1 At night, they roost on leaves, ferns, and branches 0.6–2.3 m above the ground.1,4 Dracula Anoles inhabit moist, shaded, moss-covered microhabitats that are too cold for most other anole species.4 Their activity begins at around 7:00 am, with slight head movements and small jumps between branches.1 Dracula Anoles are ambush predators and their diet is primarily insectivorous, including beetles, ants, wasps, butterflies, arachnids, flies, harvestmen, and plant matter.1 Anoles of this species change their dorsal coloration when disturbed or depending on the substrate, going from bright greenish yellow to brown.1,4 They will also sometimes bite when handled. Anolis dracula is an oviparous reptile. One adult female in Ecuador laid a clutch of one egg that hatched after 122 days (about four months).5 Males defend territories and court females using visual signals such as head bobs and dewlap display.4

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances.. Anolis dracula is a recently described species; therefore, its conservation status has not yet been formally evaluated by the IUCN. Here, it is proposed to be included in the Least Concern category mainly on the basis of the species’ presence in protected areas, lack of major widespread threats, and distribution over an area that retains the majority (~70%; Fig. 2) of its original forest cover.6,7 This species is usually the most abundant anole wherever it occurs and does not appear to be declining.1

Distribution: Anolis dracula is native to an estimated area of 3,688 km2 along the Pacific slopes of the Andes in northwestern Ecuador (Fig. 2) and southwestern Colombia.

Distribution of Anolis dracula in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Anolis dracula in Ecuador. The star corresponds to the type locality: Gualpi–Chical 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.8 The specific epithet dracula refers to the type locality: Dracula Reserve.1

See it in the wild: Probably the best locality to find Dracula Anoles is the Dracula Reserve, or almost any forest trail along the Gualpi–Chical road. 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 stand out when lit with a flashlight.

Special thanks to Michael McDermott for symbolically adopting the Dracula Anole and helping bring the Reptiles of Ecuador book project to life.

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

Photographers: Jose VieirabAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,cAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador. and Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A (2023) Dracula Anole (Anolis dracula). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/EKEU9957

Literature cited:

  1. 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
  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. 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.
  4. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  5. Ayala-Varela F, Guerra-Correa ES (2023) Anolis dracula. 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:
  6. MAE (2012) Línea base de deforestación del Ecuador continental. Ministerio del Ambiente del Ecuador, Quito, 30 pp.
  7. IDEAM (2014) Mapa de cobertura de la tierra adaptada para Colombia.
  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 dracula in Ecuador (Fig. 2). Go to the section on symbols and abbreviations for a list of acronyms used. Asterisk (*) indicates type locality.

ColombiaNariñoFinca de ArcecioYánez-Muñoz et al. 2018
ColombiaNariñoJunín, 4 km E ofiNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaNariñoMirador Río ÑambíiNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaNariñoReserva Natural La PlanadaAyala-Varela & Velasco 2010
ColombiaNariñoReserva Natural Río NambíYánez-Muñoz et al. 2018
EcuadorCarchiBase of Cerro OscuroYánez-Muñoz et al. 2018
EcuadorCarchiChical, 5 km SE ofYánez-Muñoz et al. 2018
EcuadorCarchiChilma BajoThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorCarchiDracula ReservePhoto by EcoMinga
EcuadorCarchiLa FloridaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorCarchiLa Primavera–ChicalThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorCarchiRío PailónYánez-Muñoz et al. 2018
EcuadorCarchiRoad Gualpi–Chical*Yánez-Muñoz et al. 2018
EcuadorCarchiSan José de Río BlancoYánez-Muñoz et al. 2018
EcuadorCarchiSan Juan, environs ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorCarchiSendero Ecológico TeldibiYánez-Muñoz et al. 2018
EcuadorImbaburaConcesión Minera CascabelAyala-Varela et al. 2022
EcuadorImbaburaLa PeñaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorImbaburaLita, 6 km SW ofReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorImbaburaSanta CeciliaYánez-Muñoz et al. 2018