Published August 15, 2021. 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 Río Curaray, Pastaza province (); Suchipakari Lodge (); and Aguas Negras Lodge, Sucumbíos province (); Ecuador. j=juvenile.

Natural history: FrequentRecorded weekly in densities below five individuals per locality., but often overlooked due the species’ arboreal habits.6 In Amazonia, Anolis ortonii inhabits relatively open sunny areas in evergreen lowland terra firme, igapó (=blackwater-flooded forests),6 and inundated forests along rivers.7 The species also occurs in forest borders, clearings, secondary growths, grass fields with sparse trees, and cultivated areas such as parks and yards.15 In Brazil and Venezuela, A. ortonii also occurs in dry forest and restinga forest.8,9 During the daytime, Amazon Bark Anoles are usually active on tree trunks and large branches but may as well use other substrates such as palm fronds, shrubs, thatched roofs, wooded platforms, building walls, fences, leaf-litter, soil, and lichen-covered rocks.1,2,811 Individuals have been observed on trees ~20–45 m above the forest floor,12,13 as well on shrubs and small trees.2,14 Anolis ortonii is a diurnal species, 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 This behavior allows them to detect potential predators by sensing the vibration on the perch, to which they respond by jumping and disappearing into the dark.

Amazon Bark Anoles are ambush predators that feed on mobile insects occurring on trunks and large limbs of large trees.6 Their diet is based primarily on 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 Anolis 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 visual signals such as head bobs and dewlap display.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, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.20 The species also occurs in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil.20 In Ecuador, A. ortonii has been recorded at elevations between 106 and 1087 m (Fig. 2).

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 ~10–20% certainty in forest-edge situation throughout the species’ area of distribution in Ecuador. Some of the best localities to find these lizards are Yasuní Scientific Station, Tiputini Biodiversity Station, Sacha Lodge, Sani Lodge, and Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve. Individuals, especially males, are easy to spot on the trunks of large trees during the day.

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.

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Author: Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Biodiversity Field Lab, Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

Photographers: Jose VieiraaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,bAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador. and Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Biodiversity Field Lab, Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A (2021) Amazon Bark Anole (Anolis ortonii). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J, Guayasamin JM (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.

ColombiaCaquetáIsla ViejaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
ColombiaCaquetáVereda San JosiMCZ
ColombiaPutumayoAgua BlancaIAvH-R-4869
ColombiaPutumayoAlto Río CaquetáICN
ColombiaPutumayoEl Empalme, 7.8 km W ofIAvH-R-4880
ColombiaPutumayoMocoaMLS 711
ColombiaPutumayoPuerto AsísMLS 1476
EcuadorMorona SantiagoAshuara Village Ribeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorMorona SantiagoCusuimeRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorMorona SantiagoFinca GuadalupanaPhoto by María José Quiroz
EcuadorMorona SantiagoLimónNéstor Acosta, pers. comm.
EcuadorMorona SantiagoMacasMHNG 2463.048
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSan José de MoronaPhoto by Fernando Ayala
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSucúaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSuritiakThis work
EcuadorNapoJatun Sacha Biological StationRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorNapoMisahuallíRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorNapoPuerto NapoRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorNapoRancho Isla CanelaiNaturalist
EcuadorNapoRío CotopinoRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorNapoRío PayaminoRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorNapoSinchi SachaPhoto by Ernesto Arbeláez
EcuadorNapoSuchipakari LodgeThis work
EcuadorNapoTenaThis work
EcuadorNapoYachana ReserveWhitworth & Beirne 2011
EcuadorOrellanaEl CocaMHNG 2591.021
EcuadorOrellanaMandaripanga LodgeThis work
EcuadorOrellanaMouth of Río GuataracoRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorOrellanaNapo Cultural CenteriNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaNapo Wildlife CenterThis work
EcuadorOrellanaNear lake JatuncochaiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaPuerto QuincheTorres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorOrellanaRío Bigal Biological ReservePhoto by Thierry García
EcuadorOrellanaSan José de PayaminoiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaShiripuno LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaTiputini Biodiversity Station iNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaYarina LodgeThis work
EcuadorOrellanaYasuni Scientific StationThis work
EcuadorOrellanaYuca SurPhoto by Paulina Romero
EcuadorOrellana Bloque 65MZUTI 3727
EcuadorPastazaAlto CurarayRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaBalsauraOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaBataburo LodgeOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaCanelosThis work
EcuadorPastazaCobaya CochaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaCuraray MedioThis work
EcuadorPastazaDon TomásRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaJuyuintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaKallanaMZUTI 5091
EcuadorPastazaKurintzaDHMECN 4376
EcuadorPastazaMontalvoRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaPalandaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaPozo Garza-1Field notes of Luis Coloma
EcuadorPastazaPuyo, 3 km S ofKU 127093
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
EcuadorSucumbíosBermejo 4KU 122046
EcuadorSucumbíosLa Selva LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosLago AgrioDuellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosLaguna GrandeDHMECN 422
EcuadorSucumbíosLimoncochaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorSucumbíosSacha LodgePhoto by Heike Brieschke
EcuadorSucumbíosSan Pablo de KantesiyaMHNG 2260.061
EcuadorSucumbíosSani Lodge's ReserveiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta CeciliaDuellman 1978
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeConcesión ECSADHMECN 8526
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeFinca YantzaiNaturalist
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeMaycuThis work
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeYankuam LodgeiNaturalist
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