Published July 4, 2023. Updated November 9, 2023. Open access.

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Roughskin Anole (Anolis trachyderma)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Anolidae | Anolis trachyderma

English common names: Roughskin Anole, Common Forest Anole.

Spanish common names: Anolis áspero, anolis de piel áspera.

Recognition: ♂♂ 15.4 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=6.1 cm. ♀♀ 14.7 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=5.8 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. The Roughskin Anole (Anolis trachyderma) can be identified by its small body size, small orangish dewlap with rows of black scales (Fig. 1), and dark chin with one or two narrow transverse pale lines.1 There is usually a dark interocular bar, two pale reddish oblique lines on the dorsal surface of the hind limbs, and a broad irregular white stripe along the belly.14 Females are larger than males and have a rudimentary dewlap.3,4 This species is often confused with A. ortonii, which has a large yellow-striped bright orange dewlap, and A. fuscoauratus, which has a large pink-red dewlap with white scales.1,5

Figure showing variation among individuals of Anolis trachyderma

Figure 1: Individuals of Anolis trachyderma from Ecuador: Río Curaray, Pastaza province (); Cabeceras del Río Bobonaza, Pastaza province (); Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve, Napo province (). j=juvenile.

Natural history: Anolis trachyderma is a frequently encountered anole that inhabits well-shaded and damp rainforests.3 It is most abundant in terra firme forest,6 but also occurs in swamps, igapó (=blackwater-flooded forests), and inundated forests along white-water rivers.1,4,7 This species inhabits pristine rainforests as well as logged forests and edge situations,2,4 but is usually absent from clearings and cultivated areas.1,3,8 Roughskin Anoles are included in the “leaf-litter and bush” anole ecomorph9 because they primarily use the forest floor and undergrowth forest strata.1,10 Activity occurs from sunrise to sunset2,6 during cloudy or sunny days.3 Preferred microhabitats are leaf-litter and low shrubs,3 but also tree-trunks, herbaceous plants, thickets, and dense foliage within two meters from the ground.1,2,4 Roughskin Anoles are primarily active in the shade or in filtered sunlight when ambient temperatures hover around 27°C.3,4 At night, individuals roost at heights of 0.1–2 m above the ground on flimsy leaves and twigs that will move if disturbed by a predator.3,4,7 Anolis trachyderma is an ambush predator that feeds primarily on spiders, grasshoppers, crickets, and roaches,1,3,6 but also on at least 17 other prey items, from insect larvae to termites and pseudoscorpions.3,10 Males defend territories by performing head bobs and dewlap displays.11 Females lay one egg at a time, in leaf-litter, up to three times per year, and the incubation period is 77 days (~2 months).1,6 Breeding seems to take place year-round throughout the upper Amazon.1,2 Roughskin Anoles avoid predators by remaining perfectly still; which, combined with their dry-leaf camouflage, makes them hard to detect. When disturbed, they jump into the leaf-litter.6 If on a trunk, they move to the opposite side or run to the base of the trunk.2 Predators include snakes (notably Imantodes cenchoa12 and Xenoxybelis argenteus1), birds,13 and lizards (A. scypheus1 and K. pelviceps1).

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..14 Anolis trachyderma is listed in this category given its wide distribution, presence in major protected areas, lack of widespread threats, and presumed large and stable populations.14

Distribution: Anolis trachyderma is widely distributed throughout the western Amazon basin in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador (Fig. 2), and Peru.15

Distribution of Anolis trachyderma in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Anolis trachyderma 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 trachyderma comes from the Greek words trachys (=rough) and derma (=skin) and refers to the granular scales on the head and dorsum.17

See it in the wild: Roughskin Anoles are easily located in forested areas throughout the species’ area of distribution in Ecuador. Some of the best localities to find these lizards are Yasuní Scientific Station, Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve, and La Selva Lodge. These shy reptiles can be spotted by scanning the understory vegetation along forest trails at night.

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) Roughskin Anole (Anolis trachyderma). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/LATF1482

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. Dixon JR, Soini P (1986) The reptiles of the upper Amazon Basin, Iquitos region, Peru. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, 154 pp.
  3. Vitt LJ, Avila-Pires TCS, Zani PA, Espósito MC (2002) Life in shade: the ecology of Anolis trachyderma (Squamata: Polychrotidae) in Amazonian Ecuador and Brazil, with comparisons to ecologically similar anoles. Copeia 2002: 275–286. DOI: 10.1643/0045-8511(2002)002[0275:LISTEO]2.0.CO;2
  4. Avila-Pires TCS (1995) Lizards of Brazilian Amazonia (Reptilia: Squamata). Zoologische Verhandelingen 299: 1–706.
  5. Duellman WE (2005) Cusco amazónico: the lives of amphibians and reptiles in an Amazonian rainforest. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 433 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. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  8. Beirne C, Burdekin O, Whitworth A (2013) Herpetofaunal responses to anthropogenic habitat change within a small forest reserve in eastern Ecuador. The Herpetological Journal 23: 209–219.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Losos JB (2009) Lizards in a evolutionary tree: ecology and adaptative radiation of anoles. University of California, Berkeley, 507 pp.
  12. Photo by John Sullivan.
  13. Espinoza F, Yánez-Muñoz M (2023) Predation on a Roughskin Anole (Anolis trachyderma) by a Smooth-billed Ani (Aves: Cuculidae). Reptiles & Amphibians 30: e18528. DOI: 10.17161/randa.v30i1.18528
  14. Castañeda MR, Cisneros-Heredia DF, Perez P, Avila-Pires TCS, Gagliardi G (2020) Anolis trachyderma. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T44577804A44577813.en
  15. 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
  16. Allsopp R (1996) Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 776 pp.
  17. Cope ED (1875) Report on the reptiles brought by Professor James Orton from the middle and upper Amazon and western Peru. Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 8: 159–183.

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

ColombiaAmazonasPuerto NariñoRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
ColombiaPutumayoCentro Experimental AmazónicoBetancourth-Cundar & Gutiérrez-Zamora 2010
ColombiaPutumayoKanakasCahueño & Barbosa 2022
ColombiaPutumayoLas AméricasIAvH-R-09792; Instituto Humboldt & Agencia Nacional de Hidrocarburos 2022
ColombiaPutumayoMonte VerdeGeopark Colombia S.A.S., Ingeniería y Medio Ambiente S.A.S., M&L CONSULTORES S.A.S. 2022
ColombiaPutumayoPlaya NuevaIAvH-R-09783; Instituto Humboldt & Agencia Nacional de Hidrocarburos 2022
EcuadorMorona SantiagoEstación Biológica WisuiChaparro et al. 2011
EcuadorMorona SantiagoMacumaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSawastianOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorMorona SantiagoTukupiQCAZ 4940; Ayala-Varela & Carvajal-Campos 2023
EcuadorMorona SantiagoVilla AshuaraOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorNapoCotocochaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoGarenoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoJatun Sacha Biological StationReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoLiana LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoMinga LodgeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorNapoRío CotopinoRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorNapoRuna HuasiAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorNapoSan Jose Viejo de SumacoRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorNapoSuchipakari LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoTenaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorNapoYachana LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoYachana ReserveBeirne et al. 2013
EcuadorOrellanaBloque 31Libro PetroAmazonas
EcuadorOrellanaComunidad El EdénAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorOrellanaHacienda PrimaveraRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorOrellanaKawymenoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaNenkepareReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorOrellanaNPFReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorOrellanaPozo Amo 2Ribeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorOrellanaPuesto CaveroiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaRío BigalGarcía et al. 2021
EcuadorOrellanaRío Yasuní, near Lake JatuncochaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorOrellanaSan José de PayaminoMaynard et al. 2016
EcuadorOrellanaShiripuno LodgePhoto by Fernando Vaca
EcuadorOrellanaSinchichictaRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorOrellanaTiguinoAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorOrellanaTiputini Biodiversity Station Cisneros-Heredia 2003
EcuadorOrellanaYarentaroiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaYasuní Scientific StationAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorPastazaBalsauraOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaBataburo LodgeAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorPastazaCabeceras del Río BobonazaThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorPastazaCanelosReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPastazaConamboOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaCuraray MedioThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorPastazaFinca HeimatlosiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaJuyuintzaQCAZ 4983; Ayala-Varela & Carvajal-Campos 2023
EcuadorPastazaKapawi LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPastazaKurintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaLlanchamacochaAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorPastazaOglánMZUTI 3799; collection catalogue
EcuadorPastazaPindoyacuOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaPozo DantaAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorPastazaRío BufeoOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaRío CorrientesRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorPastazaRío LorocachiAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorPastazaSan VirgilioiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaSarayacuReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPastazaTihuanoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaUNOCAL Base CampRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorSucumbíosComunidad Cofán ZábaloReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSucumbíosDurenoYánez-Muñoz & Chimbo 2007
EcuadorSucumbíosEstación PUCE en CuyabenoAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorSucumbíosGarzacochaRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorSucumbíosGüeppicilloiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosKichwa LodgeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosLa Selva LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSucumbíosLago AgrioDuellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosLimoncocha Biological ReserveAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorSucumbíosLumbaqui, 5 km E ofDueñas and Báez 2021
EcuadorSucumbíosParadise HutsAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorSucumbíosPlataforma Espejo 1Consultora Cinge 2012
EcuadorSucumbíosPuerto LibreDuellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosSan Pablo de KantesiyaAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta Cecilia Duellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta ElenaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosShushufindiAyala-Varela 2004
EcuadorSucumbíosTara 2MZUTI 2570; collection catalogue
EcuadorSucumbíosUnión OrenseiNaturalist; photo examined
PeruLoretoNautaCope 1876
PeruLoretoRío TahuayoiNaturalist; photo examined
PeruLoretoYurimaguasBoulenger 1885
PeruLoretoZona Reservada GüeppíYánez-Muñóz & Vanegas 2008