Published May 8, 2023. Updated December 22, 2023. Open access.

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Mossy Anole (Anolis fitchi)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Anolidae | Anolis fitchi

English common names: Mossy Anole, Fitch’s Anole.

Spanish common names: Anolis del musgo, anolis de Fitch.

Recognition: ♂♂ 34.5 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=9.6 cm. ♀♀ 31.2 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=8.7 cm..1,2 Anoles are easily distinguishable from other lizards by their diurnal habits, extensible dewlap in males (can be present in females also), expanded digital pads, and granular scales on the dorsum and belly.3,4 The Mossy Anole (Anolis fitchi) can be identified from other co-occurring anoles based on its large body size, dorsal coloration, and dewlap pattern. The dorsum is olive green with dark brown bands, spots, and reticulations that resemble the pattern of moss; the iris is bluish-turquoise or maroon depending on the population.2,5 The dewlap in adult males is large, extending to the middle of belly, brown with yellowish scales at the base, becoming pale yellow laterally (Fig. 1).2,5 The female dewlap is smaller. In northern populations it is blotched black on saffron yellow; in southern populations, uniformly brown with yellow scales.2,5 Anolis fitchi is most similar to A. podocarpus, a species that occurs south of the known distribution of A. fitchi and has a dark pinkish brown dewlap.2

Figure showing variation among individuals of Anolis fitchi

Figure 1: Individuals of Anolis fitchi from Ecuador: Río Topo, Tungurahua province (); Tzarentza, Pastaza province (); La Bonita, Sucumbíos province (). j=juvenile.

Natural history: Anolis fitchi is a locally frequent diurnal and arboreal lizard that inhabits the understory of old-growth to moderately disturbed cloud forests, evergreen montane forests, forest borders, and cane fields.1,5,6 Most individuals of this species have been found at night, roosting on branches, ferns, leaves, herbs, and bushes 0.3–4 m above the ground, especially along streams.1,5 Adults perch head-up, higher than juveniles; juveniles lower, heads down.7 During the day, individuals have been seen active on leaf-litter, tree trunks, rocks, and low vegetation.1 Mossy Anoles are ambush predators and their diet is primarily insectivorous, including beetles, flies, leafhoppers, ants, crickets, arachnids, and pillbugs.6 These lizards can change their dorsal coloration when disturbed or depending on the substrate, going from bright yellowish green to dark brown.1,6 Anolis fitchi is an oviparous species. Gravid females containing 1–2 eggs have been reported,6 but the real clutch size is probably one egg.

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..8 Anolis fitchi is listed in this category because the species is widely distributed, present in protected areas, has presumably large and stable populations, and occurs in areas having continuous unspoiled forest.8 The majority of the species’ forest habitat in Ecuador (~86%) and Colombia (~90%) is still standing.9,10 The most important threat to the long-term survival of the species is habitat destruction mostly due to mining and the expansion of the agricultural frontier.8

Distribution: Anolis fitchi is native to the Amazonian slopes of the Andes of Ecuador (Fig. 2) and Colombia.

Distribution of Anolis fitchi in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Anolis fitchi in Ecuador. The star corresponds to the type locality: 16.5 km NNE of Santa Rosa, Napo 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.11 The specific epithet fitchi honors American herpetologist Dr. Henry Fitch (1909–2009), in recognition of this work on the ecology of anoles.12,13

See it in the wild: Mossy Anoles can be located with almost complete certainty during a short night hike along forest trails in volcanoes Sangay, Sumaco, and Reventador. Although these lizards are active during the day, they can be spotted at night roosting on small twigs and leaves where their bright yellowish bellies stand out when lit with a flashlight.

This species has been symbolically adopted on behalf of Henry Fitch. Special thanks to Walter Jennings for supporting the creation of this account and helping bring the Reptiles of Ecuador book project to life.

Click here to adopt a species.

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) Mossy Anole (Anolis fitchi). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/IJPE4015

Literature cited:

  1. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  2. Ayala-Varela F, Torres-Carvajal O (2010) A new species of dactyloid anole (Iguanidae, Polychrotinae, Anolis) from the southeastern slopes of the Andes of Ecuador. ZooKeys 53: 59–73. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.53.456
  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. Castañeda MR, de Queiroz K (2013) Phylogeny of the Dactyloa clade of Anolis lizards: new insights from combining morphological and molecular data. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 160: 345–398. DOI: 10.3099/0027-4100-160.7.345
  5. Williams EE, Duellman WE (1984) Anolis fitchi, a new species of the Anolis aequatorialis group from Ecuador and Colombia. University of Kansas publications, Museum of Natural History 10: 257–266.
  6. Ayala-Varela F (2004) Revisión taxonómica y de variación geográfica de las especies de Anolis (Sauria: Polychrotidae) del Oriente Ecuatoriano. BSc thesis, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, 204 pp.
  7. Ayala-Varela F, Carvajal-Campos A (2022) Anolis fitchi. 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:
  8. Cisneros-Heredia DF, Velasco J, Castañeda MR, Castro F (2019) Anolis fitchi. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-2.RLTS.T178386A18968038.en
  9. MapBiomas Amazonía (2022) Mapeo anual de cobertura y uso del suelo de la Amazonía. Available from:
  10. Moreno-Arias R, Velasco JA, Urbina Cardona J, Cárdenas-Arévalo G, Medina Rangel G, Gutiérrez Cárdenas P, Olaya-Rodriguez M, Noguera-Urbano E (2021) Atlas de la biodiversidad de Colombia. Anolis. Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humboldt, Bogotá, 72 pp.
  11. Allsopp R (1996) Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 776 pp.
  12. Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M (2011) The eponym dictionary of reptiles. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 296 pp.
  13. 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

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

ColombiaCaquetáCerro AguacateGutiérrez-Lamus et al. 2020
ColombiaCaquetáFinca La CabañaSINCHI 956; Caicedo Portilla 2023
ColombiaCaquetáVereda TarquiICN 9694; Calderón et al. 2023
ColombiaPutumayoEl Pepino, 10 km W ofWilliams & Duellman 1984
EcuadorMorona Santiago9 de OctubreTipantiza-Tuguminago et al. 2021
EcuadorMorona SantiagoÁrea Protegida Río Negro SopladoraFrenkel & Rodas 2017
EcuadorMorona SantiagoBosque Protector AbanicoCumba Endara 2008
EcuadorMorona SantiagoChiguazaAyala-Varela & Torres-Carvajal 2010
EcuadorMorona SantiagoCordillera de CutucúiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoEl RosarioQCAZ 17183; Ayala-Varela & Carvajal-Campos 2022
EcuadorMorona SantiagoEl Salado–Río ChicoTipantiza-Tuguminago et al. 2019
EcuadorMorona SantiagoLaguna el EnmascaradoPhoto by Darwin Núñez
EcuadorMorona SantiagoPlan de MilagroReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorMorona SantiagoQuebrada 9 de OctubreReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorMorona SantiagoReserva Ecológica El ParaísoPhoto by Sebastián Padrón
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSardinayacuiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSopladoraMZUA.RE.0226; examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoValle Río QuimiBetancourt et al. 2018a
EcuadorMorona SantiagoVía Sígsig–GualaquizaQCAZ 17236; Ayala-Varela & Carvajal-Campos 2022
EcuadorNapo30 km N of turnoff to BaezaAyala-Varela & Torres-Carvajal 2010
EcuadorNapoBaezaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorNapoCordillera de GuacamayosAyala-Varela & Torres-Carvajal 2010
EcuadorNapoEl ChacoPhoto by Diego Piñán
EcuadorNapoEl SaladoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorNapoHidroeléctrica Coca Codo SinclairCOCASINCLAIR 2013
EcuadorNapoNapo GalerasAyala-Varela & Torres-Carvajal 2010
EcuadorNapoPacto SumacoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoRío AzuelaWilliams & Duellman 1984
EcuadorNapoRío SaladoWilliams & Duellman 1984
EcuadorNapoSanta Rosa de QuijosYánez-Muñoz et al. 2018
EcuadorNapoSanta Rosa, 16.5 km NNE of*Williams & Duellman 1984
EcuadorNapoSendero arriba CocodrilosReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoShell, 5 km W ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorNapoSumaco Camp 1Reptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPastazaMeraMCZ 124346; VertNet
EcuadorPastazaSumak Kawsay In SituBentley et al. 2021
EcuadorPastazaTinajas del Río AnzuReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPastazaTzarentzaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSucumbíosEl ReventadorAyala-Varela & Torres-Carvajal 2010
EcuadorSucumbíosLa AlegríaWilliams & Duellman 1984
EcuadorSucumbíosLa BonitaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSucumbíosLa SofíaAyala-Varela & Torres-Carvajal 2010
EcuadorSucumbíosLa VirgenAyala-Varela & Torres-Carvajal 2010
EcuadorSucumbíosSibundoyAyala-Varela & Torres-Carvajal 2010
EcuadorSucumbíosSlopes of Volcán ReventadoriNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosVolcán ReventadorReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorTungurahuaEl TopoAyala-Varela & Torres-Carvajal 2010
EcuadorTungurahuaReserva La CandelariaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorTungurahuaReserva Río ZunacYánez-Muñoz et al. 2018
EcuadorTungurahuaRio TopoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorTungurahuaRío VerdeAyala-Varela & Torres-Carvajal 2010