Published August 27, 2023. Updated November 5, 2023. Open access.

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Amazon Green Anole (Anolis punctatus)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Anolidae | Anolis punctatus

English common names: Amazon Green Anole, Spotted Anole.

Spanish common names: Anolis verde amazónico, anolis verde moteado.

Recognition: ♂♂ 31.2 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=9.2 cm. ♀♀ 28.9 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=8.1 cm..14 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 Amazon Green Anole (Anolis punctatus) is the largest anole in the Ecuadorian Amazon. It can be identified by its green dorsum and yellow scales encircling the eyes.1,2 Notably, its snout bears keeled scales, and its dewlap (Fig. 1) is large, orange-yellow, and adorned with rows of white scales.1 Anolis transversalis is another large amazonian anole having a greenish coloration, but its dewlap is spotted or streaked, and its dorsum is either dotted or banded.1,2

Figure showing variation among individuals of Anolis punctatus

Figure 1: Individuals of Anolis punctatus from Ecuador: Yasuní Scientific Station, Orellana province (); Suchipakari Lodge, Napo province (); Pacto Sumaco, Napo province (); Yarina Lodge, Orellana province (). j=juvenile.

Natural history: Anolis punctatus, a seldom-seen anole in the Ecuadorian Amazon, owes its apparent scarcity primarily to its green coloration and arboreal tendencies.2,5 The species inhabits terra-firme or seasonally flooded rainforests as well as forest edges, and even certain arboreous areas in cities.27 Amazon Green Anoles are most active at ambient temperatures ~28°C during the early morning and late afternoon, seeking shelter from the midday sun.2,5 They bask and forage on tree trunks, logs, and thick vines.1,3 Anolis punctatus is included in the “crown-giant” anole guild,4,5,8 because it uses the upper forest strata, ascending to emerging trees 50 m above the forest floor.9 Nonetheless, this lizard is not restricted to the crown of large trees; it can also be found on small trees and saplings.17 Occasionally, especially after heavy rainfall, individuals are knocked to the ground.3,10 At night, these anoles sleep on branches, leaves, palm fronds, and trunks 1–6 m above the ground.3,5,11 This behavior is a strategic adaptation for detecting potential predators through branch vibrations, to which they react by leaping into the darkness. There are documented instances of predation on individuals of this species by the snake Imantodes cenchoa.7,12 The diet of A. punctatus is based primarily on grasshoppers, ants, beetles, and roaches, but also includes at least 16 additional prey item categories ranging from caterpillars to snails and even frogs.17,13 Amazon Greens can change their dorsal coloration when disturbed, going from bright green to to dark brown.3 This cryptic coloration serves as their primary defense strategy during the day, and when startled, they typically escape by racing up or down tree trunks.2,3 Gravid females contain one or two eggs,1,6 yet the typical clutch size is one egg.2 Reproduction seems to take place throughout the year.1 Males defend territories and court females using visual signals such as head bobs and dewlap display.14

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..15 Anolis punctatus is listed in this category given its wide distribution, presence in major protected areas, lack of widespread threats, and presumed large stable populations.15 The species also persists in “forest islands” in cities. However, it is unsure whether such pockets will sustain the species without the presence of a dense population nearby that may act as a source of individuals that can immigrate to the fragmented habitat.3

Distribution: Anolis punctatus is widely distributed throughout the Amazon basin in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Perú, Suriname, and Venezuela.16 The species also occurs in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil.16 (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Anolis punctatus in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Anolis punctatus 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.17 The specific epithet punctatus comes from the Latin punctum (=spot), and the suffix -atum (=provided with).18 This refers to the dorsal color pattern.

See it in the wild: Amazon Green Anoles are spotted at a rate of about once every few weeks in forested areas throughout their distribution in Ecuador, especially when individuals are knocked to the ground after heavy rainfall. Some of the best localities to find these lizards are Yasuní Scientific Station, Tiputini Biodiversity Station, Huella Verde Lodge, and Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve. Although individuals can be spotted active on tree trunks during the day, they are much more easily found and approached at night, when they are sleeping on branches and leaves close to the ground.

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) Amazon Green Anole (Anolis punctatus). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/WFTH6086

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. Vitt LJ, De la Torre S (1996) A research guide to the lizards of Cuyabeno. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Quito, 165 pp.
  3. Avila-Pires TCS (1995) Lizards of Brazilian Amazonia (Reptilia: Squamata). Zoologische Verhandelingen 299: 1–706.
  4. 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.
  5. Vitt LJ, Avila-pires TCS, Espósito MC, Sartorius SS, Zani PA (2003) Sharing Amazonian rain-forest trees: ecology of Anolis punctatus and Anolis transversalis (Squamata: Polychrotidae). Journal of Herpetology 37: 276–285. DOI: 10.1670/0022-1511(2003)037[0276:SARTEO]2.0.CO;2
  6. Dixon JR, Soini P (1986) The reptiles of the upper Amazon Basin, Iquitos region, Peru. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, 154 pp.
  7. Duellman WE (2005) Cusco amazónico: the lives of amphibians and reptiles in an Amazonian rainforest. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 433 pp.
  8. 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.
  9. Photo by Paul Donahue.
  10. Meede U (1984) Herpetologische Studien über Echsen (Sauria) in einem begrenzten Gebiet des Tropischen Regenwaldes in Peru: morphologische Kriterien, Autökologie und Zoogeographie. Artenliste der Reptilien im Untersuchungsgebiet. PhD thesis, Universitat Hamburg, 189 pp.
  11. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  12. Martins M, Oliveira ME (1998) Natural history of snakes in forests of the Manaus region, Central Amazonia, Brazil. Herpetological Natural History 6: 78–150.
  13. Hoogmoed MS (1973) Notes on the herpetofauna of Surinam. IV. The lizards and amphisbaenians of Surinam. Biogeographica 4: 1–419.
  14. Oliveira JA, Moraes LJCL (2021) Mating behavior of Anolis punctatus (Squamata: Dactyloidae) in the Brazilian Amazonia. Phyllomedusa 20: 185–190. DOI: 10.11606/issn.2316-9079.v20i2p185-190
  15. Castañeda MR, Gagliardi G, Perez P, Cisneros-Heredia DF, Avila-Pires TCS, Rivas G, Schargel W, Aparicio J (2020) Anolis punctatus. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T44577684A44577693.en
  16. Ribeiro-Júnior MA, Amaral S (2016) Diversity, distribution, and conservation of lizards (Reptilia: Squamata) in the Brazilian Amazonia. Neotropical Biodiversity 2: 195–421. DOI: 10.1080/23766808.2016.1236769
  17. Allsopp R (1996) Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 776 pp.
  18. 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 punctatus in Ecuador (Fig. 2). Go to the section on symbols and abbreviations for a list of acronyms used.

ColombiaCaquetáSolanoIAvH-R-4970; Borja-Acosta & Galeano Muñoz 2023
ColombiaPutumayoEl EsconditeiNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaPutumayoLas AméricasIAvH-R-09786; IAvH & Agencia Nacional de Hidrocarburos 2022
ColombiaPutumayoRío GuamuésAyala-Varela 2004
ColombiaPutumayoSimón BolívarIAvH-R-9153; Borja-Acosta & Acosta-Galvis 2021
EcuadorMorona SantiagoGualaquiza–MacasRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorMorona SantiagoKaanchicoAyala-Varela & Carvajal-Campos 2022
EcuadorMorona SantiagoMacasMHNG 2521.001; collection database
EcuadorMorona SantiagoMacumaUIMNH 82908; collection database
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSuritiakReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoGuamaní, 3 km NE ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorNapoHuaorani LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoJatun Sacha Biological StationReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoNarupa ReserveReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoPacto SumacoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoRío ArajunoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorNapoRuna HuasiAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorNapoSuchipakari LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoYachana ReserveBeirne et al. 2013
EcuadorNapoZatzayacuPhoto by Ricardo Íñiguez
EcuadorOrellanaEl CocaAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorOrellanaHacienda PrimaveraMHNG 2212.091; collection database
EcuadorOrellanaLoretoRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorOrellanaMandaripanga CampiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaNenkepareReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorOrellanaPapagayoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaParroquia San PedroiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaRío BigalGarcía et al. 2021
EcuadorOrellanaRío PucunoRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorOrellanaRío YasuníiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaSan José de PayaminoMaynard et al. 2016
EcuadorOrellanaShiripuno LodgePhoto by Fernando Vaca
EcuadorOrellanaTiputini Biodiversity Station Cisneros-Heredia 2003
EcuadorOrellanaVía a BogiAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorOrellanaVía NPF–TivacunoAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorOrellanaYarina LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorOrellanaYasuní Scientific StationAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorPastazaBolívariNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaCanelosO’shaughnessyi 1881
EcuadorPastazaChichirotaRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorPastazaConamboOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaEstación Juri JuriiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaFinca HeimatlosPhoto by Ferhat Gundogdu
EcuadorPastazaHuella Verde LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPastazaJuyuintzaAyala-Varela & Carvajal-Campos 2022
EcuadorPastazaKapawi LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPastazaMerazoniaPhoto by Peter Archer
EcuadorPastazaMontalvoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaMouth of Río RomarizoAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorPastazaPalandaRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorPastazaPozo Petrolero MisiónAlmendáriz 1987
EcuadorPastazaPuerto Santana, 3 km N ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaPuyo, Hostería TuringiaAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorPastazaRío OglánRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorPastazaRío PucayacuAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorPastazaRío ShilcayacuUSNM 234776; VertNet
EcuadorPastazaSanta Clara–Piatua roadReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPastazaSarayacuRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorPastazaSumak Kawsay In SituBentley et al. 2021
EcuadorPastazaVillanoPhoto by Carla Rubio
EcuadorSucumbíosBlancaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosComunidad ZábaloCevallos Bustos 2010
EcuadorSucumbíosDurenoKU 105325; VertNet
EcuadorSucumbíosEstación PUCE CuyabenoAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorSucumbíosLa Selva LodgeAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorSucumbíosLago AgrioDuellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosLimoncocha Biological ReserveAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorSucumbíosLumbaqui, 5 km E ofDueñas and Báez 2021
EcuadorSucumbíosNapo Wildlife CenterReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSucumbíosNicky Amazon LodgeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosSan Pablo de KantesiyaAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorSucumbíosSani LodgeThomas et al. 2020
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta Cecilia Duellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosSecoya hunting campUIMNH 82777; collection database
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeCampamento Fruta del NorteAlmendáriz et al. 2014
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeCopalinga LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeEl PadmiiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeTundaymeiNaturalist; photo examined
PerúAmazonasBoca del Río SantiagoRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
PerúAmazonasLa PozaRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
PerúAmazonasPuerto GalileaRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
PerúAmazonasQuebrada WeeCatenazzi & Venegas 2012
PerúAmazonasRío CenepaRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
PerúLoretoAllpahuayo-Mishana National ReservePhoto by Thibaud Aronson
PerúLoretoEstirónRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
PerúLoretoLagartocochaKnell 2012