Published February 14, 2022. Updated November 5, 2023. Open access.

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Purple Anole (Anolis purpurescens)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Anolidae | Anolis purpurescens

English common names: Purple Anole, Chocoan Purple Anole, Chocoan Anole.

Spanish common names: Anolis morado, anolis morado del Chocó, anolis del Chocó.

Recognition: ♂♂ 20.4 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=8.8 cm. ♀♀ 20.3 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=7.4 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 Purple Anole (Anolis purpurescens) can be identified from other co-occurring green anoles based on the presence of blue or dark brown dorsal spots, dark transverse bands, and a unique dewlap coloration.4 The dewlap differs between sexes. In males, it is orange with a white patch anteriorly and with rows of white or green scales. In females, it is green with rows of white scales.4,5 Also, the males can have a fleshy nuchal crest. The belly is pale green to grayish and the iris is pale brown.5 Anolis purpurescens can be confused with A. chloris, A. fraseri, A. parilis, and A. princeps, but it is easily distinguishable from these other species based on dewlap coloration. Anolis parilis has the most similar dewlap pattern, but it can be differentiated by having the white patch coloration in the posterior base of the dewlap.6 The Purple Anole can also be easily differentiated from A. princeps and A. fraseri by its smaller body size (SVL 11.7 cm in A. princeps; SVL 11.6 cm in A. fraseri).7

Figure showing variation among individuals of Anolis purpurescens

Figure 1: Individuals of Anolis purpurescens from Ecuador: Kapari Lodge, Pichincha province (); Canandé Reserve, Esmeraldas province (). j=juvenile.

Natural history: Anolis purpurescens is locally abundant, yet often overlooked, arboreal anole that inhabits old-growth to moderately disturbed evergreen lowland forests.5,8,9 This Anolis has also been recorded in disturbed areas such as rural gardens adjacent to forest border.10 Purple Anoles are diurnal and usually active between 8:00 am and 2:00 pm. Their activity takes place on vegetation up to 9 m above the ground and includes perching, foraging, or dewlap displays at intervals of about 15 minutes.8,10 At night, they can be found sleeping on shrubs, branches, small trees, or ferns up to 6 m above the ground, either along streams or in the forest.5,811 The diet of A. purpurescens is based primarily on insects of the orders Coleoptera, Diptera, Hemiptera, Hymenoptera, and on arachnids of the order Araneae.10 The Purple Anole is oviparous. There is a single record of one egg found under loose bark on top of a rotting log.5

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..12 Anolis purpurescens is listed in this category given its wide distribution over areas that have not been heavily affected by deforestation and its presence in several protected areas in Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador. The most important threat for the long-term survival of some populations is large-scale deforestation caused by the expansion of the agricultural frontier.12 The current population trend is unknown because individuals of A. purpurescens are difficult to observe due to their arboreal habits.

Distribution: Anolis purpurescens is distributed throughout the Chocoan lowlands and adjacent Andean foothills from eastern Panama, through western Colombia, to Cotopaxi province in Ecuador (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Anolis purpurescens in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Anolis purpurescens 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.13 The specific epithet purpurescens comes from the Latin word purpurasco, meaning “to turn purple.”14 This refers to the coloration that anoles of this species adopt when preserved in ethanol.

See it in the wild: Due to their arboreal habits, Purple Anoles are usually overlooked by most visitors to the forests of western Ecuador. However, these anoles are common in some areas. Individuals are more easily located at night sleeping on branches near streams. In Ecuador, the localities having the greatest number of recent observations are: Kapari Lodge, Bilsa Biological Reserve, and Otongachi Reserve.

Author: Laura Gómez-MesaaAffiliation: Escuela de Ciencias Aplicadas e Ingeniería, Universidad EAFIT, Medellín, Colombia.

Editor: Alejandro ArteagabAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

Photographer: Jose VieiracAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,dAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Gómez-Mesa L (2022) Purple Anole (Anolis purpurescens). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/DTKD5209

Literature cited:

  1. Velasco JA, Hurtado-Gómez JP (2014) A new green anole lizard of the Dactyloa clade (Squamata: Dactyloidae) from the Magdalena river valley of Colombia. Zootaxa 3758: 201–216. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.3785.2.4
  2. Batista A, Vesely M, Mebert K, Lotzkat S, Köhler G (2015) A new species of Dactyloa from eastern Panama, with comments on other Dactyloa species present in the region. Zootaxa 4039: 57–84. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.4039.1.2
  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. Cope ED (1899) Contributions to the herpetology of New Granada and Argentina, with descriptions of new forms. The Philadelphia Museums Scientific Bulletin 1: 1–22. DOI: 10.5962/bhl.title.54674
  5. Williams EE, Duellman WE (1967) Anolis chocorum, a new punctatus-like anole from Darien, Panama (Sauria, Iguanidae). Breviora 256: 1–12.
  6. Torres-Carvajal O, Pazmiño-Otamendi G, Salazar-Valenzuela D (2019) Reptiles of Ecuador: a resource-rich online portal, with dynamic checklists and photographic guides. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 13: 209–229.
  7. Williams EE, Rand H, Rand AS, O’Hara RJ (1995) A computer approach to the comparision and identification of species in difficult taxonomic groups. Breviora 502: 1–47.
  8. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  9. Rengifo JTM, Herrera FC, Purroy FJ (2014) Diversidad de una comunidad de Anolis (Iguania: Dactyloidae) en la selva pluvial central, departamento del Chocó, Colombia. Basic and Applied Herpetology 28: 51–63. DOI: 10.11160/BAH.12004
  10. Boada Viteri EA (2015) Ecología de una comunidad de lagartijas del género Anolis (Iguanidae: Dactyloinae) de un bosque pie-montano del Ecuador occidental. BSc thesis, Quito, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, 111 pp.
  11. Esteban Garzón-Franco, field observation.
  12. Batista A, Velasco J, Arredondo JC, Castañeda MR (2020) Anolis purpurescens. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T44577699A44577702.en
  13. Allsopp R (1996) Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 776 pp.
  14. Mir J (1982) Diccionario ilustrado Latín. Barcelona, 557 pp.

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

ColombiaNariñoReserva Natural Río ÑambiiNaturalist
EcuadorCarchiDestacamento MilitarMECN 8056
EcuadorCarchiEl PailónVelasco & Hurtado-Gómez 2014
EcuadorCarchiRío San JuanMECN 6713
EcuadorCarchiSendero AwaMECN 6714
EcuadorCarchiTobar DonosoiNaturalist
EcuadorCotopaxiBosque Privado El Jardín de los SueñosPhoto by Christophe Pellet
EcuadorCotopaxiLa ManáPhoto by Adam Javorcik
EcuadorCotopaxiYakusinchiPhoto by Jane Sloan
EcuadorEsmeraldasDurangoVelasco & Hurtado-Gómez 2014
EcuadorEsmeraldasLote QuijanoMECN 3245
EcuadorEsmeraldasReserva CanandéThis work
EcuadorEsmeraldasReserva Ecológica Cotacachi CayapasVelasco & Hurtado-Gómez 2014
EcuadorEsmeraldasReserva ItapoaThis work
EcuadorEsmeraldasTundaloma LodgeThis work
EcuadorEsmeraldasVida Rosero ReserveThis work
EcuadorManabíBilsa Biological ReserveThis work
EcuadorPichinchaEl CentinelaUSNM 285675
EcuadorPichinchaGanaderos OrensesTorres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorPichinchaKapari LodgeThis work
EcuadorPichinchaMashpi LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorPichinchaMonterreal Rainforest EcolodgePhoto by José Schreckinger
EcuadorPichinchaRío Baba Bridge, 4 km E ofUIMNH 82902
EcuadorPichinchaSanta Marianita, 4 km E ofiNaturalist
EcuadorPichinchaSanto Domingo de los ColoradosVelasco & Hurtado-Gómez 2014
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasFinca GloriaVelasco & Hurtado-Gómez 2014
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasLa FloridaVelasco & Hurtado-Gómez 2014
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasReserva La PerlaPhoto by Plácido Palacios
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasReserva OtongachiVelasco & Hurtado-Gómez 2014