Published June 18, 2021. Updated November 7, 2023. Open access.

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Yellow-tongued Anole (Anolis scypheus)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Anolidae | Anolis scypheus

English common names: Yellow-tongued Anole, Dim Anole.

Spanish common names: Anolis de lengua amarilla, anolis cabeza de platillo, anolis sombrío.

Recognition: ♂♂ 26.6 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=8.4 cm. ♀♀ 25.6 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=8.6 cm..1 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.2 Yellow-tongued Anoles (Anolis scypheus) can be recognized by being moderately robust, having a short snout, and a dewlap that is blue medially and red peripherally.1,3,4 The coloration resembles that of a dry leaf, with cream caudally directed chevrons and streaks on a dark brown dorsum.5,6 Females differ from males by having a smaller dewlap, and in some cases, a pale vertebral stripe.1,4 Anolis scypheus resembles A. bombiceps in size and dorsal coloration, but the latter has an entirely blue dewlap.5

Figure showing variation among individuals of Anolis scypheus

Figure 1: Individuals of Anolis scypheus from Ecuador: Yasuní National Park, Orellana province (); La Selva Lodge, Sucumbíos province (); Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, Sucumbíos province (). j=juvenile.

Natural history: Anolis scypheus is a diurnal and primarily terrestrial lizard adapted to life on the leaf-litter and understory vegetation.4 The species is compartively abundant in old-growth to heavily disturbed evergreen lowland forests, including seasonally flooded as well as terra firme areas. These anoles forage mostly at ground level7 or on tree trunks and shrubs less than 2.5 m above the ground.3,8 Their activity occurs throughout the day and mostly under shade,4 but individuals have also been seen basking on logs or buttresses.1 At night, they sleep on leaves, sticks, and stems less than 1.5 m above the ground.4,9 Yellow-tongued Anoles are ambush predators that attack mobile insects that pass nearby.1,4 They feed mostly on invertebrates such as grasshoppers, katydids, roaches, insect larvae, spiders, and isopods, but may as well include lizards (such as A. trachyderma and Loxopholis parietalis) in their diet.1,4 Yellow-tongued Anoles escape predators by remaining perfectly still; which, combined with their dry leaf camouflage, makes them hard to detect.4,9 When disturbed, they may remain motionless or run for a few meters and disappear in the shade.10 If on a trunk, they move to the opposite side or run up along the trunk, sometimes up to 9 m above the ground.4,9 There is an unpublished record of a snake (Imantodes lentiferus) preying upon an individual of A. scypheus.9 The breeding season appears to take place year-round.1 Gravid females contain 1–2 eggs,1 but the clutch consists of one egg at a time.4

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..11,12 Anolis scypheus is listed in this category given its wide distribution, presence in major protected areas, lack of widespread threats, and presumed large stable populations.11 The species occurs over areas that retain the majority of their vegetation cover. In Brazil, 52% of the occurrence area of the species is inside protected areas, and about 99.8% of its distribution still holds continuous forest cover.13 In Ecuador, an estimated 89% of the habitat of the species is still forested.14

Distribution: Anolis scypheus is widely distributed throughout western Amazonia in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador (Fig. 2), and Peru.15 It also ranges along the Andean-Orinoquian piedmont of Venezuela and Colombia.7

Distribution of Anolis scypheus in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Anolis scypheus 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.16 The specific epithet scypheus may be derived from the Greek word skyphion (=dim),17 in reference to the dorsal coloration,18 or from the Latin scyphus (=cup),19 in reference to the shape of the head.18

See it in the wild: Yellow-tongued Anoles can be found in forested areas throughout their distribution in Ecuador, at a rate of about once every two days. Some of the most promising locations to encounter these lizards include the Yasuní Scientific Station, Limoncocha Biological Reserve, Shiripuno Lodge, Huella Verde Lodge, and Jatun Sacha Biological Station. While it is possible to spot individuals actively moving about on the forest floor during the day, they are more readily observed and approached at night when they are sleeping on twigs and leaves near the ground.

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 David Turell for symbolically adopting the Yellow-tongued 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: Alejandro Arteaga,dAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador. Jose Vieira,aAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,bAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador. and Sebastián Di DoménicocAffiliation: Keeping Nature, Bogotá, Colombia.

How to cite? Arteaga A (2021) Yellow-tongued Anole (Anolis scypheus). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/YVMA4242

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. 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.
  3. Dixon JR, Soini P (1986) The reptiles of the upper Amazon Basin, Iquitos region, Peru. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, 154 pp.
  4. Vitt LJ, De la Torre S (1996) A research guide to the lizards of Cuyabeno. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Quito, 165 pp.
  5. D’Angiolella AB, Gamble T, Avila-Pires TCS, Colli GR, Noonan BP, Vitt LJ (2011) Anolis chrysolepis Duméril and Bibron, 1837 (Squamata: Iguanidae), revisited: molecular phylogeny and taxonomy of the Anolis chrysolepis species group. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 160: 35–63. DOI: 10.3099/0027-4100-160.2.35
  6. Avila-Pires TCS (1995) Lizards of Brazilian Amazonia (Reptilia: Squamata). Zoologische Verhandelingen 299: 1–706.
  7. Rojas-Runjaic FJ, Quihua D, Castellanos M, La Marca E (2018) Anolis scypheus Cope, 1864 (Squamata, Dactyloidae) en Venezuela: confirmación de presencia y nuevos registros. Memoria de la Fundación La Salle de Ciencias Naturales 76: 93–101.
  8. Vitt LJ, Zani PA (1996) Organization of a taxonomically diverse lizard assemblage in Amazonian Ecuador. Canadian Journal of Zoology 74: 1313–1335.
  9. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  10. Fitch HS (1968) Temperature and behavior of some equatorial lizards. Herpetologica 24: 35–38.
  11. Caicedo JR, Calderón M, Ines Hladki A, Ramírez Pinilla M, Renjifo J, Rivas G, Urbina N, Perez P, Avila-Pires TCS, Cisneros-Heredia DF (2020) Anolis scypheus. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T44577756A44577761.en
  12. 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.
  13. 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
  14. MAE (2012) Línea base de deforestación del Ecuador continental. Ministerio del Ambiente del Ecuador, Quito, 30 pp.
  15. 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
  16. Allsopp R (1996) Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 776 pp.
  17. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C., 882 pp.
  18. Cope ED (1864) Contributions to the herpetology of tropical America. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 16: 166–181.
  19. Mir J (1982) Diccionario ilustrado Latín. Barcelona, 557 pp.

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

ColombiaCaquetáFlorenciaPhoto by Camilo Yasnó
ColombiaCaquetáMonserrateGutiérrez-Lamus et al. 2020
ColombiaPutumayoOritoRibeiro-Júnior 2015
ColombiaPutumayoRío Picudo ChicoIAvH 392
ColombiaPutumayoRío PutumayoFMNH 165808
ColombiaPutumayoVereda Alpes OrientalesIAvH 330
EcuadorMorona SantiagoCentro NumpaimTorres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorMorona SantiagoMiazalRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorMorona SantiagoRío CusuimeRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorMorona SantiagoRío LlushinRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorMorona SantiagoRío UpanoRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSawastianOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorMorona SantiagoShuin MamusiNaturalist
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSoldado MongePhoto by Freddy Velásquez
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSucúa, 2 miles E ofRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorMorona SantiagoUnión del Río Paute y Río NegroTorres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorNapoAsociación TsatsayakuiNaturalist
EcuadorNapoGareno LodgeThis work
EcuadorNapoHuaorani LodgeThis work
EcuadorNapoJatun Sacha Biological StationThis work
EcuadorNapoLa Cruz BlancaD’Angiolella et al. 2011
EcuadorNapoLiana LodgeThis work
EcuadorNapoRío MisahuallíRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorNapoSacha LodgeThis work
EcuadorNapoYachana ReserveWhitworth & Beirne 2011
EcuadorOrellanaBloque 31Libro PetroAmazonas
EcuadorOrellanaBoya 2MECN 3380
EcuadorOrellanaDayuma, 22.6 km E ofMECN 1934
EcuadorOrellanaEl CocaMHNG 2591.021
EcuadorOrellanaEstación PindoiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaHacienda PrimaveraD’Angiolella et al. 2011
EcuadorOrellanaJoya de los SachasMECN 4989
EcuadorOrellanaLaguna TaracoaD’Angiolella et al. 2011
EcuadorOrellanaMandaripanga LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaNapo Wildlife CenteriNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaObe OccidentalMECN 3383
EcuadorOrellanaPaushiyacuKingsbury et al. 2008
EcuadorOrellanaPozo Amo 2Ribeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorOrellanaRío Bigal Biological ReserveThierry García
EcuadorOrellanaRío YasuníThis work
EcuadorOrellanaSan Jose de MoteRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorOrellanaShiripuno LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaTiguinoMECN 383
EcuadorOrellanaTiputini Biodiversity Station iNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaYasuní Scientific StationThis work
EcuadorOrellanaYuturiMECN 1517
EcuadorOrellana Pindo, bloque 64MZUTI 3957
EcuadorPastazaArutam, 5 km S ofiNaturalist
EcuadorPastazaBalsauraAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorPastazaBalsauraOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaBetween Sarayacu and CanelosRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaConamboOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaDestacamento Militar ShionaAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorPastazaJuyuintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaKallanaMZUTI 5087
EcuadorPastazaKapawi LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorPastazaLorocachiTorres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorPastazaPalandaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaPuerto MurialdoMECN 3821
EcuadorPastazaPuyo, nearbyKU 178947
EcuadorPastazaQuebrada ChuroyacuRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaRío BufeoOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaRío LliquinoRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaSarayacuThis work
EcuadorPastazaUNOCAL Base CampRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaZanja ArajunoThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosCuyabeno LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosCuyabeno River LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosDurenoDuellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosEstación Amazonas OCPValencia & Garzón 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosLa Selva LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosLago AgrioDuellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosLaguna de PañacochaiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosLimoncochaD’Angiolella et al. 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosLower Río CuyabenoiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosParque PerlaMZUTI 2561
EcuadorSucumbíosPozo TeteteiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosPrecooperativa CentinelaAlemán 2013
EcuadorSucumbíosPuerto OreDuellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosReserva ChichicosPhoto by Guido Bladimir
EcuadorSucumbíosReserva Ecológica Cofán BermejoMECN 8290
EcuadorSucumbíosRío BlancoiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosSan Pablo de KantesiyaMECN 390
EcuadorSucumbíosSani LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosSani LodgeThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta CeciliaD’Angiolella et al. 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosShushufindi, 4 km N ofiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosWaita Amazon LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosZancudocochaFelipe Campos, pers. comm.
PeruAmazonasAintamiRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruAmazonasBoca del Río SantiagoD’Angiolella et al. 2011
PeruAmazonasChigkan EntseRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruAmazonasHuampamiRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruAmazonasKayamasRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruAmazonasLa PozaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruAmazonasMouth of Kagka riverUSNM 316699
PeruAmazonasPuerto GalileaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruAmazonasQuebrada SasaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruAmazonasQuebrada ShinganatzaAlmendáriz et al. 2014
PeruAmazonasRío CaterpizaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruAmazonasRío CenepaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruAmazonasSan Antonio, Río CenepaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruAmazonasShiringaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruAmazonasYutupisRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruLoretoBarrancaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
PeruLoretoEstación Biológica PitheciaAvila-Pires 1995
PeruLoretoGaliciaD’Angiolella et al. 2011
PeruLoretoGüeppíFMNH 2008
PeruLoretoPongo ChinimFMNH 2012
PeruLoretoRío PacayaD’Angiolella et al. 2011
PeruLoretoRío YuvinetoMNHN 1978.2364