Published June 28, 2023. Open access.

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Orcés’ Anole (Anolis orcesi)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Anolidae | Anolis orcesi

English common name: Orcés’ Anole.

Spanish common name: Anolis de Orcés.

Recognition: ♂♂ 12.7 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=6.0 cm. ♀♀ 12.2 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=5.8 cm..1,2 Anoles are easily distinguishable from other lizards by their diurnal habits, extensible dewlap in males (sometimes in females), expanded digital pads, and granular scales on the dorsum and belly. The Orcés’ Anole (Anolis orcesi) belongs to the phenacosaur group of anoles, which are characterized by having large smooth headscales, short limbs, short and prehensile tail, and chameleon-like movements.1,3,4 This species differs from other members of the group mainly on the basis of its green coloration, yellow dewlap in males (orange in females), and homogenous granular dorsal scales (Fig. 1).1 The only other phenacosaur anole that co-occurs with A. orcesi is A. vanzolinii, a species having a different dewlap shape and coloration and large round flat dorsal scales interspersed with small granules.3

Figure showing variation among individuals of Anolis orcesi

Figure 1: Individuals of Anolis orcesi from Ecuador: Macas–Riobamba road, Morona Santiago province (); La Bonita, Sucumbíos province ().

Natural history: Anolis orcesi is a rarely-seen diurnal and arboreal lizard that inhabits high elevation cloud forests, gallery forests, pastures with scattered trees, and secondary vegetation along road-cuts.1,5,6 Anolis orcesi can be included in the “twig” anole guild7 because it prefers to use small branches and narrow surfaces such as twigs and exhibits very slow movements.5 Orcés’ Anoles are diurnal, exhibit perch fidelity, and use the understory and canopy forest strata.8 At night, individuals have been found roosting on flimsy twigs, ferns, and branches 1.3–8 m above the ground. Gravid females containing 1–2 eggs have been reported,2 but the real clutch size is probably one egg.

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Conservation: Near Threatened Not currently at risk of extinction, but requires some level of management to maintain healthy populations..6 Anolis orcesi is listed in this category primarily on the basis of the species’ limited extent of occurrence (under 9,000 km2), perceived low population densities, and reliance on forested environments, which are declining in extent and quality along the Amazonian slopes of the Andes in Ecuador.6 Fortunately, A. orcesi occurs in national parks and is distributed over an area that retains the majority (~91%) of its vegetation cover.9

Distribution: Anolis orcesi is endemic to an estimated area of 8,560 km2 along the Amazonian slopes of the Andes in Ecuador (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Anolis orcesi in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Anolis orcesi in Ecuador. The star corresponds to the type locality: Mt. Sumaco, 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.10 The specific epithet orcesi honors Gustavo Orcés (1903–1999), in recognition of his many contributions to the herpetology of Ecuador.

See it in the wild: Although diurnal, Orcés’ Anoles are rarely spotted during the day. They are much more easily found at night by scanning shrubs and trees along roads or trails, where the lizards will usually be roosting on small twigs and branches. Orcés’ Anoles are particularly common around the towns La Bonita, El Chaco, and Baeza.

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) Orcés’ Anole (Anolis orcesi). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/PXVI3996

Literature cited:

  1. Lazell JD (1969) The genus Phenacosaurus (Sauria, Iguanidae). Breviora 325: 1–24.
  2. 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.
  3. Williams EE, Orcés GV, Matheus JA, Bleiweiss R (1996) A new giant phenacosaur from Ecuador. Breviora 505: 1–32.
  4. Dunn ER (1944) The lizard genus Phenacosaurus. Caldasia 3: 57–62.
  5. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  6. Velasco J, Castañeda MR, Bolívar W (2020) Anolis orcesi. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T44577452A44577457.en
  7. 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.
  8. Blog post by Melissa Aja.
  9. MAE (2012) Línea base de deforestación del Ecuador continental. Ministerio del Ambiente del Ecuador, Quito, 30 pp.
  10. 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 orcesi in Ecuador (Fig. 2). Go to the section on symbols and abbreviations for a list of acronyms used. Asterisk (*) indicates type locality.

EcuadorMorona Santiago9 de Octubre, 13.3 km W ofReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorMorona Santiago9 de Octubre, 9.5 km W ofReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorMorona SantiagoBetween Zuñac and 9 de OctubreReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoBaezaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorNapoBaeza, 44.1 km N ofQCAZ 9712; Ayala-Varela & Carvajal-Campos 2020
EcuadorNapoEl ChacoPhoto by Diego Piñán
EcuadorNapoMt. Sumaco*Lazell 1969
EcuadorNapoPacto SumacoQCAZ 13518; Ayala-Varela & Carvajal-Campos 2020
EcuadorSucumbíosHiguerónReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSucumbíosKm 97QCAZ 14409; Ayala-Varela & Carvajal-Campos 2020
EcuadorSucumbíosLa AlegríaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSucumbíosLa BonitaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSucumbíosSebundoyReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorTungurahuaReserva La CandelariaReyes-puig et al. 2019
EcuadorTungurahuaRío TopoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorTungurahuaVía VizcayaReptiles of Ecuador book database