Published August 15, 2021. Updated September 16, 2023. Open access.

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Amazon Bark Anole (Anolis ortonii)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Anolidae | Anolis ortonii

English common names: Amazon Bark Anole, Orton’s Anole.

Spanish common names: Anolis corteza, anolis de Orton.

Recognition: ♂♂ 15.3 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=5.7 cm. ♀♀ 13.9 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=5.2 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.3 The Amazon Bark Anole (Anolis ortonii) can be identified based on its coloration and small body size. The dorsum is tan brown or pale gray (dark brown under stress) with various degrees of blackish bark-like markings, and a dark brown interobital bar.14 The belly and throat are cream and the iris is brown.1 The dewlap is bright orange with red streaks and present in both sexes, but it is noticeably more developed in males, extending to the middle of the belly.16 Anolis ortonii is often confused with A. fuscoauratus, which has a rose-pink dewlap with white scales, and A. trachyderma, which has a small orange-yellow dewlap with black scales.1,4

Figure showing variation among individuals of Anolis ortonii

Figure 1: Individuals of Anolis ortonii from Ecuador: Aguas Negras Lodge, Sucumbíos province (); Río Curaray, Pastaza province ().

Natural history: Anolis ortonii, though a common species, is often overlooked due to its arboreal habits.6 In Amazonia, A. ortonii inhabits semi-open sunny areas in terra firme as well as seasonally flooded rainforests.6,7 The species also occurs in forest borders, clearings, trees in the middle of pastures, and rural gardens.15 In Brazil and Venezuela, A. ortonii can be found in more xeric habitats.8,9 Amazon Bark Anoles prefer tree trunks and large branches, but they may also utilize other substrates such as palm fronds, shrubs, thatched roofs, wooded platforms, building walls, fences, leaf-litter, soil, and lichen-covered rocks.1,2,811 These anoles have been observed on trees at 20–45 meters above the forest floor12,13 as well on shrubs and small trees.2,14 Anolis ortonii is active in sun or shade throughout most of the day.6,11 At night, individuals sleep on twigs, vines, branches, surfaces of tree trunks, and leaves 0.4–3 m above the ground.6,7,13 Amazon Bark Anoles feed on mobile insects occurring on tree trunks: primarily ants and wasps,1,4,11 but also includes leafhoppers,6 orthopterans,1 lepidopterans,4 beetles,6 mantids,15 roaches,4 insect larvae,6 and spiders.1 Amazon Bark Anoles can change their dorsal coloration when disturbed, going from pale gray or tan to dark brown.2 Their coloration resembles a tree bark and is their primary defense mechanism.6 In the presence of a potential predator, individuals may remain motionless or, if on a trunk, move to the opposite side or run up along the trunk.2,6,13 There are records of snakes (Imantodes cenchoa)16 and Western Puffbirds (Nystalus obamai)17 preying upon individuals of A. ortonii. Gravid females contain 1–2 eggs, but the clutch size is one egg.1,2,6 These are deposited among damp leaf-litter, in ant nests, or beneath bark.2 Males defend territories and court females using head bobs and dewlap displays.13

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..18,19 Anolis ortonii is listed in this category given its wide distribution, presence in major protected areas, lack of widespread threats, and presumed large stable populations. This is one of the few Amazonian anoles that seem to have benefited from the conversion of pristine closed-canopy forests to more open forest-edge situations.

Distribution: Anolis ortonii is widely distributed throughout the Amazon basin in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador (Fig. 2), French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.20 The species also occurs in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil.20

Distribution of Anolis ortonii in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Anolis ortonii in Ecuador. See Appendix 1 for a complete list of the presence localities included in the map. The star corresponds to the general type locality: Río Napo or Upper Río Marañón.

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.21 The specific epithet ortonii honors American naturalist James Orton (1830–1877), collector of the holotype, in recognition of his contributions towards unveiling the herpetological diversity of the Amazon basin.22

See it in the wild: Amazon Bark Anoles can be located with relative easy in forest-edge situation throughout the species’ area of distribution in Ecuador. Prime locations for locating these lizards are the Yasuní Scientific Station, Tiputini Biodiversity Station, Sacha Lodge, Sani Lodge, and the Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve. Individuals, particularly males, are readily visible on the trunks of large trees during daylight hours.

Acknowledgments: This account was published with the support of Secretaría Nacional de Educación Superior Ciencia y Tecnología (programa INEDITA; project: Respuestas a la crisis de biodiversidad: la descripción de especies como herramienta de conservación; No 00110378), Programa de las Naciones Unidas (PNUD), and Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ).

Special thanks to Ellen Smith for symbolically adopting the Amazon Bark 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.

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

How to cite? Arteaga A (2021) Amazon Bark Anole (Anolis ortonii). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/XPFK9777

Literature cited:

  1. Duellman WE (1978) The biology of an equatorial herpetofauna in Amazonian Ecuador. Publications of the Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas 65: 1–352.
  2. Avila-Pires TCS (1995) Lizards of Brazilian Amazonia (Reptilia: Squamata). Zoologische Verhandelingen 299: 1–706.
  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. Duellman WE (2005) Cusco amazónico: the lives of amphibians and reptiles in an Amazonian rainforest. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 433 pp.
  5. Dixon JR, Soini P (1986) The reptiles of the upper Amazon Basin, Iquitos region, Peru. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, 154 pp.
  6. Vitt LJ, De la Torre S (1996) A research guide to the lizards of Cuyabeno. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Quito, 165 pp.
  7. Vitt LJ, Magnusson WE, Avila-Pires TCS, Pimentel Lima A (2008) Guide to the lizards of Reserva Adolpho Ducke, Central Amazonia. Áttema Design Editorial, Manaus, 176 pp.
  8. Barrio-Amorós CL, Brewer-Carías C (2008) Herpetological results of the 2002 expedition to Sarisarinama, a tepui in Venezuelan Guayana, with the description of five new species. Zootaxa 1942: 1–68. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.1942.1.1
  9. Couto-Ferreira D, Tinôco MS, Oliveira MLT, Browne-Ribeiro HC, Fazolato CP, Silva RM, Barreto GS, Dias MA (2011) Restinga lizards (Reptilia: Squamata) at the Imbassaí Preserve on the northern coast of Bahia, Brazil. Journal of Threatened Taxa 3: 1990–2000. DOI: 10.11609/JoTT.o2800.1990-2000
  10. Whitworth A, Beirne C (2011) Reptiles of the Yachana Reserve. Global Vision International, Exeter, 130 pp.
  11. Pinto Aguirre JA (2014) Ecología de una comunidad de lagartijas del género Anolis en el Parque Nacional Yasuní. BSc thesis, Quito, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, 52 pp.
  12. McCracken SF, Forstner MRJ (2014) Herpetofaunal community of a high canopy tank bromeliad (Aechmea zebrina) in the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve of Amazonian Ecuador, with comments on the use of “arboreal” in the herpetological literature. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 8: 65–75.
  13. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  14. Hoogmoed MS (1973) Notes on the herpetofauna of Surinam. IV. The lizards and amphisbaenians of Surinam. Biogeographica 4: 1–419.
  15. Photo by Paulina Romero.
  16. Martins M, Oliveira ME (1998) Natural history of snakes in forests of the Manaus region, Central Amazonia, Brazil. Herpetological Natural History 6: 78–150.
  17. Photo by Edwin Munera.
  18. Reyes-Puig C (2015) Un método integrativo para evaluar el estado de conservación de las especies y su aplicación a los reptiles del Ecuador. MSc thesis, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, 73 pp.
  19. Carrillo E, Aldás A, Altamirano M, Ayala F, Cisneros-Heredia DF, Endara A, Márquez C, Morales M, Nogales F, Salvador P, Torres ML, Valencia J, Villamarín F, Yánez-Muñoz M, Zárate P (2005) Lista roja de los reptiles del Ecuador. Fundación Novum Millenium, Quito, 46 pp.
  20. Ribeiro-Junior MA (2015) Catalogue of distribution of lizards (Reptilia: Squamata) from the Brazilian Amazonia. I. Dactyloidae, Hoplocercidae, Iguanidae, Leiosauridae, Polychrotidae, Tropiduridae. Zootaxa 3983: 001–110. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.3983.1.1
  21. Allsopp R (1996) Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 776 pp.
  22. Cope ED (1868) An examination of the Reptilia and Batrachia obtained by the Orton Expedition to Equador and the Upper Amazon, with notes on other species. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 20: 96–140.

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

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
ColombiaCaquetáIsla ViejaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
ColombiaCaquetáVereda San JosiVertNet
ColombiaPutumayoAgua BlancaBorja-Acosta & Galeano Muñoz 2023
ColombiaPutumayoAlto Río CaquetáCalderón et al. 2023
ColombiaPutumayoEl Empalme, 7.8 km W ofBorja-Acosta & Galeano Muñoz 2023
ColombiaPutumayoMocoaCárdenas Hincapié & Lozano Bernal 2023
ColombiaPutumayoPuerto AsísCárdenas Hincapié & Lozano Bernal 2023
EcuadorMorona SantiagoCusuimeRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorMorona SantiagoFinca GuadalupanaPhoto by María José Quiroz
EcuadorMorona SantiagoLimónNéstor Acosta, pers. comm.
EcuadorMorona SantiagoMacasMHNG 2463.048; collection database
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSan José de MoronaPhoto by Fernando Ayala
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSucúaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSuritiakReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorMorona SantiagoVilla AshuaraRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorNapoJatun Sacha Biological StationRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorNapoMisahuallíRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorNapoPuerto NapoRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorNapoRancho Isla CanelaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorNapoRío CotopinoRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorNapoRío PayaminoRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorNapoSinchi SachaPhoto by Ernesto Arbeláez
EcuadorNapoSuchipakari LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorNapoTenaReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorNapoYachana ReserveWhitworth & Beirne 2011
EcuadorOrellanaEl CocaMHNG 2591.021; collection database
EcuadorOrellanaMandaripanga LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorOrellanaMouth of Río GuataracoRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorOrellanaNapo Cultural CenteriNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaNapo Wildlife CenterReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorOrellanaNear lake JatuncochaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaPuerto QuincheTorres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorOrellanaRío Bigal Biological ReservePhoto by Thierry García
EcuadorOrellanaSan José de PayaminoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaShiripuno LodgeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaTiputini Biodiversity Station iNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaYarina LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorOrellanaYasuni Scientific StationReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorOrellanaYuca SurPhoto by Paulina Romero
EcuadorOrellana Bloque 65MZUTI 3727; examined
EcuadorPastazaAlto CurarayRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaBalsauraOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaBataburo LodgeOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaCanelosReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorPastazaCobaya CochaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaCuraray MedioThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorPastazaDon TomásRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaJuyuintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaKallanaMZUTI 5091; examined
EcuadorPastazaKurintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaMontalvoRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaPalandaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaPozo Garza-1Field notes of Luis Coloma
EcuadorPastazaPuyo, 3 km S ofKU 127093; VertNet
EcuadorPastazaRío ConamboRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaRío HuiyayacuRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaRío PindoRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaRío RutunoRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaRío ShionayacuRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaRío VillanoRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaSarayacuRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaUNOCAL Base CampRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorSucumbíosAguas Negras LodgeThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorSucumbíosBermejo 4KU 122046; VertNet
EcuadorSucumbíosEstación PUCE en CuyabenoVitt & De la Torre 1996
EcuadorSucumbíosLa Selva LodgeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosLago AgrioDuellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosLimoncochaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorSucumbíosSacha LodgePhoto by Heike Brieschke
EcuadorSucumbíosSan Pablo de KantesiyaMHNG 2260.061
EcuadorSucumbíosSani Lodge's ReserveiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta CeciliaDuellman 1978
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeFinca YantzaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeMaycuReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeValle del QuimiBetancourt et al. 2018
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeYankuam LodgeiNaturalist; photo examined
PeruAmazonasAintamiRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruAmazonasBoca del Río SantiagoRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruAmazonasCaterpizaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruAmazonasHuampamiRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruAmazonasKayamasRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruAmazonasLa PozaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruAmazonasPuerto GalileaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruAmazonasQuebrada ShinganatzaAlmendáriz et al. 2014
PeruAmazonasShaimRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruAmazonasShiringaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruLoretoYarina CochaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruLoretoZona Reservada GüepiiNaturalist; photo examined