Published April 21, 2022. Updated October 29, 2023. Open access.

Gallery ❯

Pinocchio Anole (Anolis proboscis)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Anolidae | Anolis proboscis

English common names: Pinocchio Anole, Proboscis Anole, Ecuadorian Horned Anole.

Spanish common names: Anolis pinocho, anolis cornudo de Mindo.

Recognition: ♂♂ 19.4 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=8.4 cm. ♀♀ 17.8 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=7.7. cm..13 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.4 The Pinocchio Anole (Anolis proboscis) is the only anole in its area of distribution having a vertebral row of enlarged scales along the dorsum, a small uniformly whitish dewlap,1 and an elongated rostral appendage in males.36 Females of A. proboscis lack the “horn” and have a uniformly green dorsum,5 whereas the dorsum of males includes blotches of various hues ranging from black to pink on a green background.5,6 No other co-occurring anole fits this description. Females of A. proboscis may be confused with those of A. gemmosus, but the latter lack the dorsal crest.5

Figure showing variation among individuals of Anolis proboscis

Figure 1: Individuals of Anolis proboscis from Mindo, Pichincha province, Ecuador. j=juvenile.

Natural history: Anolis proboscis, a rare anole species, is approximately 50 times less common than other co-occurring anoles,2,6 and its presence often goes unnoticed due to its arboreal habits.5 This species inhabits well-preserved to moderately disturbed evergreen lower-montane forests, forest borders, roadside vegetation, pastures with scattered trees, and rural gardens.2,5 Pinocchio Anoles are active during sunny days when the ambient temperature hovers around 22 °C.1 This species is included in the “twig” anole guild because it is small (~8 cm snout-vent-length), has a short weakly prehensile tail (≤1.5 SVL), and short legs (0.5 SVL).1,7 These anoles are known for their slow movement and spend the majority of their lives 4.5–10 meters above the ground on thin (1 cm in diameter or less) twigs, branches, vines, and leaves at or near the canopy.1,5,6 Juveniles, however, tend to prefer lower perches..2 On occasion, these arboreal lizards may be found moving at ground level.8 At night, they roost on small twigs and leaves 2.1–10 m above the ground.9 This behavior allows them to detect potential predators by sensing the vibration on the branch, to which they respond by jumping and disappearing into the dark.9

The diet of Anolis proboscis is based primarily on active canopy insects.1 Numerically, the most abundant prey items consumed in a sampled population in Mindo were caterpillars, coleopterans, hemipterans, dipterans, and hymenopterans (primarily bees and wasps).1 However, these lizards also consumed insect larvae, spiders, pseudoscorpions, millipedes, seeds, flower petals, and small pieces of wood.1 Pinocchio Anoles can change their dorsal coloration when disturbed, going from bright green to dark brown.9 The cryptic coloration and twig-like motion is their primary defense mechanism, but individuals may perform a threat display and even bite when handled.9 There is a photo record of a Golden-headed Quetzal (Pharomachrus auriceps) preying upon an individual of this species.10 In captivity, females lay clutches of a single egg that hatch after an incubation period of 165 days (~5.5 months).11 Males defend territories and court females using visual signals such as raising of the proboscis, head bobs, and dewlap extensions.9,11 The proboscis is an extremely flexible structure used as an ornament during social displays but not as a weapon in physical combat.1,6,11

Reader support helps us keep the Reptiles of Ecuador book 100% free.

Conservation: Endangered Considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the near future..12 Anolis proboscis is one of Ecuador’s most imperiled reptile species.2 It was thought to be extinct for nearly fifty years and still after its “rediscovery” in 2005,8 it remains hard to locate.5 While the species is probably not as threatened as once thought, it is still restricted to an area smaller than 1,000 km2 where an estimated 35% of the forest cover has been destroyed.13 The most important threats to the long-term survival of the species are deforestation and poaching for the international pet trade. In 2021, photos of individuals of A. proboscis being kept as pets in two private collections in Europe were published on social media, suggesting that smuggling is taking place.

Distribution: Anolis proboscis is endemic to an estimated ~728 km2 area on the Pacific slopes of the Andes in northwestern Ecuador (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Anolis proboscis in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Anolis proboscis in Ecuador. The star corresponds to the type locality: Cunuco. 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.14 The specific epithet proboscis comes from the Greek word proboskis.15 It refers to the elongated rostral appendage present in males of this species.3

See it in the wild: Due to their arboreal habits, Pinocchio Anoles are usually overlooked by most visitors to the forests around the town Mindo in western Ecuador. The most effective technique to locate individuals of this species is to carefully scan the canopy using a strong flashlight at night. Although there are few localities where Pinocchio Anoles can still be reliably encountered in the wild, these are not disclosed here to prevent poaching.

Special thanks to Sarah Fitzpatrick and Kathryn Tosney for symbolically adopting the Pinocchio 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 Sebastián Di DoménicodAffiliation: Keeping Nature, Bogotá, Colombia.

How to cite? Arteaga A (2022) Pinocchio Anole (Anolis proboscis). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/PICY1211

Literature cited:

  1. Losos JB, Woolley ML, Mahler DL, Torres-Carvajal O, Crandell KE, Schaad EW, Narváez AE, Ayala-Varela F, Herrel A (2012) Notes on the natural history of the little-known Ecuadorian Horned Anole, Anolis proboscis. Breviora 531: 1–17. DOI: 10.3099/531.1
  2. Yánez-Muñoz MH, Urgilés MA, Altamirano-Benavides M, Cáceres SR (2010) Redescripción de Anolis 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.
  3. Peters JA, Orcés VG (1956) A third leaf-nosed species of the lizard genus Anolis from South America. Breviora 62: 1–8.
  4. 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.
  5. Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Guayasamin JM (2013) The amphibians and reptiles of Mindo. Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica, Quito, 257 pp.
  6. Poe S, Ayala F, Latella IM, Kennedy T, Christensen JA, Gray L, Blea NJ, Armijo BM, Schaad EW (2012) Morphology, phylogeny, and behavior of Anolis proboscis. Breviora 530: 1–11. DOI: 10.3099/530.1
  7. Nicholson KE, Crother BI, Guyer C, Savage JM (2012) It is time for a new classification of anoles (Squamata: Dactyloidae). Zootaxa 3477: 1–108. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.3477.1.1
  8. Almendáriz A, Vogt CA (2007) Anolis proboscis (Sauria: Polychrotidae), una lagartija rara pero no extinta. Revista Politécnica, Biología 7: 157–159.
  9. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  10. Photo by Eric Piller.
  11. Quirola DR, Mármol A, Torres-Carvajal O, Narváez AE, Ayala-Varela F, Moore IT (2017) Use of a rostral appendage during social interactions in the Ecuadorian Anolis proboscis. Journal of Natural History 57: 1625–1638. DOI: 10.1080/00222933.2017.1332790
  12. Arteaga A, Mayer GC, Poe S, Cisneros-Heredia DF (2019) Anolis proboscis. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-2.RLTS.T178727A18975861.en
  13. MAE (2012) Línea base de deforestación del Ecuador continental. Ministerio del Ambiente del Ecuador, Quito, 30 pp.
  14. Allsopp R (1996) Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 776 pp.
  15. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C., 882 pp.