Published May 17, 2023. Open access.

Gallery ❯

Gem Anole (Anolis gemmosus)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Anolidae | Anolis gemmosus

English common names: Gem Anole, Andes Anole.

Spanish common name: Anolis gema.

Recognition: ♂♂ 24.5 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=6.6 cm. ♀♀ 23.5 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=6.3 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. The Gem Anole (Anolis gemmosus) can be identified from other co-occurring anoles based on its small size, green dorsum, and its dewlap coloration consisting of white stripes on a background that transitions from blue to saffron (Fig. 1).2,3 In some individuals, the dewlap is uniformly pale yellowish green.4,5 Females can be set apart from other co-occurring anoles because they are solid green dorsally with the occasional pale mid-dorsal stripe,5 and have no dewlap.2,4 Females of A. proboscis are also small and uniformly greenish but they do have a dewlap.2 The morphologically similar A. poei occurs south of the known distribution of A. gemmosus.3

Figure showing variation among individuals of Anolis gemmosus

Figure 1: Individuals of Anolis gemmosus from Pichincha province, Ecuador: Santa Lucía Reserve (); Mindo (). sa=subadult, j=juvenile.

Natural history: Anolis gemmosus is an extremely common (995–1065 individuals/ha in some areas1; up to 50–60 times more abundant than other co-occurring anoles6,7) lizard that inhabits old-growth to moderately disturbed evergreen montane forests and cloud forests.2 The species prefers semi-open habitats such as forest clearings, roadsides, and rural gardens.1,8,9 Gem Anoles are included in the “grass-bush” anole ecomorph10 because they primarily use the undergrowth and herbaceous forest strata. During the day, when the ambient temperature is 19–20.4°C,2,9 these understory anoles are active on broad leaves, shrubs, palm fronds, stems, herbaceous vegetation, and tree trunks within one or two meters from the ground level.1,8 They are active even during chilly overcast days and are rarely seen directly basking in the sun.2 At night, they prefer to sleep on flimsy perches that will move if disturbed by a predator: ferns, twigs, stems, leaves, and grass blades 0.4–7.5 m above the forest floor.8,11 Gem Anoles are insectivorous, but so far only roaches have been reported as prey items.12 These reptiles change their dorsal coloration when disturbed, going from bright emerald green to dark brown.5 They will also sometimes bite when handled. Gravid females contain 1–2 eggs,5 but the real clutch size is probably one egg. Breeding seems to take place year-round.5 Males defend territories and court females using visual signals such as head bobs and dewlap displays.8

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..13 Anolis gemmosus is listed in this category given its presence in protected areas, lack of major widespread threats, presumed stable populations, and distribution over an area that retains the majority (~73%; Fig. 2) of its original forest cover.14,15 This species is usually the most abundant anole wherever it occurs and does not appear to be declining.13

Distribution: Anolis gemmosus is native to an estimated area of 8,846 km2 along the Pacific slopes of the Andes in Ecuador and southwestern Colombia. The species has been recorded at elevations between 1270 and 2487 m (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Anolis gemmosus in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Anolis gemmosus in Ecuador. 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.16 The specific epithet gemmosus comes from the Latin gemma (=gem)17 and refers to the variegated dorsal pattern.2

See it in the wild: Probably the best locality to find Gem 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 stand out when lit with a flashlight.

Special thanks to Gregory Fischer for symbolically adopting the Gem Anole 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) Gem Anole (Anolis gemmosus). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/LPMD6836

Literature cited:

  1. Miyata KI (2013) Studies on the ecology and population biology of little known Ecuadorian anoles. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 161: 45–78.
  2. Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Guayasamin JM (2013) The amphibians and reptiles of Mindo. Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica, Quito, 257 pp.
  3. Ayala-Varela FP, Troya-Rodríguez D, Talero-Rodríguez X, Torres-Carvajal O (2014) A new Andean anole species of the Dactyloa clade (Squamata: Iguanidae) from western Ecuador. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 8: 8–24.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. Yánez-Muñoz MH, Urgilés MA, Altamirano-Benavides M, Cáceres SR (2010) Redescripción de A. proboscis Peters & Orcés (Reptilia: Polychrotidae), con el descubrimiento de las hembras de la especie y comentarios sobre su distribución y taxonomía. Avances en Ciencias e Ingeniería 2: 1–14.
  7. León Reyes AE (2008) Inventario de la herpetofauna del Bosque Protector Río Guajalito, un bosque nublado montano del occidente de la Provincia de Pichincha, Ecuador. Quito, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, 60 pp.
  8. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  9. Savit AZ (2006) Reptiles of the Santa Lucía Cloud Forest, Ecuador. Iguana 13: 94–103.
  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. Ramírez-Jaramillo S (2018) Microhábitats nocturnos en dos especies de Anolis (Iguania: Dactyloidae) al noroccidente de Pichincha, Ecuador. Revista Biodiversidad Neotropical 8: 7–13.
  12. Photo by Eddy Arias.
  13. Cisneros-Heredia DF, Mayer GC (2020) Anolis gemmosus. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T178434A18976648.en
  14. MAE (2012) Línea base de deforestación del Ecuador continental. Ministerio del Ambiente del Ecuador, Quito, 30 pp.
  15. IDEAM (2014) Mapa de cobertura de la tierra adaptada para Colombia.
  16. Allsopp R (1996) Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 776 pp.
  17. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C., 882 pp.

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

ColombiaNariñoReserva La PlanadaiNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaNariñoReserva Río ÑambíiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorCarchiChilma BajoArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorCarchiFinca El EncuentroiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorCarchiQuebrada San JoséArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorCarchiQuebrada SNReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorCarchiReserva DráculaPhoto by EcoMinga
EcuadorCarchiRío San PabloArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorCotopaxiBosque Integral OtongaAyala-Varela & Velasco 2010
EcuadorCotopaxiEl TingoQCAZ 4072; Ayala-Varela & Carvajal-Campos 2022
EcuadorCotopaxiLas DamasAyala-Varela & Velasco 2010
EcuadorCotopaxiLas PampasAyala-Varela & Velasco 2010
EcuadorCotopaxiPucayacu–Sigchos road 1Ayala-Varela & Velasco 2010
EcuadorCotopaxiPucayacu–Sigchos road 2QCAZ 14394; Ayala-Varela & Carvajal-Campos 2022
EcuadorCotopaxiRecinto GalápagosAyala-Varela & Velasco 2010
EcuadorCotopaxiTangániNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEsmeraldasEl CristalCrump & Lynch 1995
EcuadorImbaburaBosque Protector El ChontalArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorImbaburaChontal AltoArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorImbaburaComuna BrillasoliNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorImbaburaComunidad Santa RosaAyala-Varela & Velasco 2010
EcuadorImbaburaCuellaje, 9.6 km NW ofArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorImbaburaIntagO'Shaughnessy 1875
EcuadorImbaburaJunínArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorImbaburaLlurimaguaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorImbaburaReserva ManduriacuLynch et al. 2014
EcuadorImbaburaSanta ClaraArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorImbaburaToisánReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorImbaburaVía Otavalo–Selva AlegreiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPichincha6 km E TandapiO’Shaughnessy 1875
EcuadorPichinchaBellavista, Antpitta trailReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaBirdwatcher’s HouseReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaBosque Protector CambugánYánez-Muñoz et al. 2009
EcuadorPichinchaBosque Protector El CedralArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaBosque Protector Mindo-NambilloArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaCascadas de MindoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaEl Pahuma Orchid ReserveYánez-Muñoz et al. 2009
EcuadorPichinchaFinca ElenitaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaHacienda La HesperiaBrouwer 2018
EcuadorPichinchaLa Unión–Río CintoYánez-Muñoz et al. 2009
EcuadorPichinchaLas TolasYánez-Muñoz et al. 2009
EcuadorPichinchaMindo Biological StationMorley Read, pers. comm.
EcuadorPichinchaMindo GardenReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaMindo Lindo LodgePhoto by Heike Brieschke
EcuadorPichinchaNanegal, 2 km E ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPichinchaNanegalitoArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaNono–MindoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaNono–Mindo roadReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaPacha QuindiPhoto by Tony Nunnery
EcuadorPichinchaPachijalAyala-Varela & Velasco 2010
EcuadorPichinchaPactoArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorPichinchaQuebrada ZapadoresReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaRoad to MindoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaSachatamia LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaSanta Lucía Cloud Forest ReserveSavit 2006
EcuadorPichinchaSaragoza–Río CintoYánez-Muñoz et al. 2009
EcuadorPichinchaSéptimo Paraíso LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaTambo Tanda LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaTamboquindeYánez-Muñoz et al. 2009
EcuadorPichinchaTandapiAyala-Varela & Velasco 2010
EcuadorPichinchaTandayapaAyala-Varela & Velasco 2010
EcuadorPichinchaTandayapa Bird LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaYellow House LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasBosque Protector Río GuajalitoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasEstación Experimental La FavoritaAyala-Varela & Velasco 2010
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasLas PalmerasArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasMiligaliArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasRío FaisanesArteaga et al. 2013
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasSanto Domingo, 30 km E ofArteaga et al. 2013