Published July 15, 2021. Updated November 9, 2023. Open access.

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Banded Tree-Anole (Anolis transversalis)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Anolidae | Anolis transversalis

English common names: Banded Tree-Anole, Transverse Anole.

Spanish common names: Anolis bandeado, anolis de bandas transversales, anolis verde, camaleón verde.

Recognition: ♂♂ 21.4 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=8.4 cm. ♀♀ 20.5 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=8.6 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 Banded Tree-Anole (Anolis transversalis) can be identified based on its coloration. The dorsum is light green (yellowish or brownish under stress) with a series of oblique dotted rows in males, and wide blackish bands in females.1,2 The belly and throat are cream and the iris is bright blue.4 A dewlap is present in both sexes, but it is more developed in males, which extends to the middle of the belly and ranges in color from lemon-orange to reddish-orange.1,4 In females, the dewlap reaches the forelimbs and is white or yellowish with brown or black crossbars.1,4 Anolis transversalis may be confused with A. punctatus, which is characterized by having a uniformly green dorsum and yellow scales around the eye.2,5

Figure showing variation among individuals of Anolis transversalis

Figure 1: Individuals of Anolis transversalis: Palmarí, Amazonas state, Brazil (); Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve, Napo province, Ecuador (); Leticia, Amazonas department, Colombia (); Napo Wildlife Center, Orellana province, Ecuador (). sa=subadult, j=juvenile.

Natural history: Anolis transversalis is an arboreal anole that is often overlooked due the species’ arboreal habits.6 The Banded Tree-Anole inhabits well-preserved evergreen lowland terra firme forests, and is rarely found in semi-open areas such as forest borders.1,5 During the daytime, individuals are usually active on tree trunks, but may as well use other substrates such as palm fronds, vines, bromeliads, logs, or leaf-litter.5,6 Although individuals have been observed on trees ~35 m above the forest floor7 and the species is included in the “crown giant” anole guild,5 this lizard is not restricted to the crown of large trees; it can also be found on small trees.2,8 Occasionally, particularly after torrential rains, individuals are knocked to the ground and may be found at or near the ground level.9 Anolis transversalis is a diurnal species, active during the morning and afternoon, but not at noon.5 At night, individuals sleep on twigs and branches 0.2–5 m above the ground with the head oriented towards the end of the branch.5,6 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.5,10

The diet of Anolis transversalis is based primarily on beetles, roaches, and ants, but also includes springtails, crickets, grasshoppers, hemipterans, flies, insect larvae, spiders, mites, millipedes, and even other lizards.1,2,5 Banded Tree-Anoles can change their dorsal coloration when disturbed, going from green to golden yellow to dark brown.1 The cryptic coloration is their primary defense mechanism, as it allows the lizards to blend in with the environment.9 Banded Tree-Anoles in Brazil have been shown to be parasitized by helminths.11 It is suggested that females of A. transversalis come down from the trees to lay eggs in the ground.4 Gravid females contain 1–2 eggs,1,2,4 but the real clutch size has not yet been confirmed. Reproduction seems to take place throughout the year.2,4 Males defend territories and court females using visual signals such as head bobs and dewlap displays.12

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..13,14 Anolis transversalis is listed in this category given its wide distribution, presence in major protected areas, lack of widespread threats, and presumed large stable populations.13 However, the species’ arboreal habits and dependence on old-growth forests makes this lizard particularly susceptible to habitat destruction and fragmentation.5

Distribution: Anolis transversalis is widely distributed throughout western Amazonia in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador (Fig. 2), and Peru.15

Distribution of Anolis transversalis in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Anolis transversalis 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 transversalis, which comes from the Latin words transversus (=crosswise) and the suffix -alis (=pertaining to),17,18 refers to the blackish transverse body bands present in females.19 Since males lack these bands and have a different coloration, they were originally described as another species.19

See it in the wild: Banded Tree-Anoles are found at a rate of about once every few weeks in forested areas throughout the species’ area of distribution in Ecuador. Some of the best localities to find these lizards are Yasuní Scientific Station, Tiputini Biodiversity Station, Sacha 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 twigs and leaves close to the ground.

Authors: Alexandra Montoya-Cruz,aAffiliation: Semillero de Investigación BioHerp, Universidad de los Llanos, Villavicencio, Colombia. Andrés F. Aponte-Gutiérrez,bAffiliation: Grupo de Biodiversidad y Recursos Genéticos, Instituto de Genética, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia.,cAffiliation: Fundación Biodiversa Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia. and Juan Acosta-OrtizaAffiliation: Semillero de Investigación BioHerp, Universidad de los Llanos, Villavicencio, Colombia.

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

Photographers: Jose VieiraeAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,fAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador. and Sebastián Di DoménicogAffiliation: Keeping Nature, Bogotá, Colombia.

How to cite? Montoya-Cruz A, Aponte-Gutiérrez AF, Acosta-Ortiz J (2021) Banded Tree-Anole (Anolis transversalis). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/LSHI2237

Literature cited:

  1. Avila-Pires TCS (1995) Lizards of Brazilian Amazonia (Reptilia: Squamata). Zoologische Verhandelingen 299: 1–706.
  2. 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.
  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. Dixon JR, Soini P (1986) The reptiles of the upper Amazon Basin, Iquitos region, Peru. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, 154 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. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  7. McCracken SF, Forstner MRJ (2014) Herpetofaunal community of a high canopy tank bromeliad (Aechmea zebrina) in the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve of Amazonian Ecuador, with comments on the use of “arboreal” in the herpetological literature. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 8: 65–75.
  8. Hoogmoed MS (1973) Notes on the herpetofauna of Surinam. IV. The lizards and amphisbaenians of Surinam. Biogeographica 4: 1–419.
  9. Vitt LJ, De la Torre S (1996) A research guide to the lizards of Cuyabeno. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Quito, 165 pp.
  10. Henderson RW, Nickerson MA (1976) Observations on the behavioral ecology of three species of Imantodes (Reptilia, Serpentes, Colubridae). Journal of Herpetology 10: 205–210.
  11. Goldberg SR, Burdsey C, Vitt LJ (2006) Parasites of two lizard species, Anolis punctatus and Anolis transversalis (Squamata: Polychrotidae) from Brazil and Ecuador. Amphibia-Reptilia 27: 575–579. DOI: 10.1163/156853806778877068
  12. Losos JB (2009) Lizards in a evolutionary tree: ecology and adaptative radiation of anoles. University of California, Berkeley, 507 pp.
  13. Calderón M, Gagliardi G, Avila-Pires TCS, Aparicio J, Perez P (2020) Anolis transversalis. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T44577819A44577829.en
  14. 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.
  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. Mir J (1982) Diccionario ilustrado Latín. Barcelona, 557 pp.
  18. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C., 882 pp.
  19. Uetz P, Freed P, Hošek J (2021) The reptile database. Available from:

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

ColombiaCaquetáRío CaguánMedina-Rangel et al. 2018
EcuadorMorona SantiagoArapicosUSNM 234806
EcuadorMorona SantiagoAshuara Village Ortega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorMorona SantiagoRío CusuimeOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorMorona SantiagoRío LlushinRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSantiago de TiwintzaMCZ 45777
EcuadorMorona SantiagoVía Patuca–Puerto MoronaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorNapoGareno LodgeThis work
EcuadorNapoHuaorani LodgeThis work
EcuadorNapoJatun Sacha Biological StationHernández-Sánchez 2013
EcuadorNapoRío PayaminoUSNM 234797
EcuadorNapoRío Sindi ApuyaDHMECN 3446
EcuadorOrellanaBloque 31Libro PetroAmazonas
EcuadorOrellanaCampo Yuturi, 8 km SE ofiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaCampo Yuturi, 9 km SE ofiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaComunidad OasisTorres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorOrellanaComunidad San VicenteOnline multimedia
EcuadorOrellanaEl EdéniNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaFlorencia Photo by Samael Padilla
EcuadorOrellanaGuiyeroAlmendáriz 2011
EcuadorOrellanaJoya de los SachasPhoto by Daniel Chávez
EcuadorOrellanaMouth of Río Yasuní, 8 km upstreamThis work
EcuadorOrellanaObe OrientalDHMECN 3382
EcuadorOrellanaPlataforma Petrolera ApaikaiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaRío Bigal Biological ReservePhoto by Thierry García
EcuadorOrellanaRío PayaminoRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorOrellanaRío YasuníMaría José Quiroz, pers. comm.
EcuadorOrellanaSan francisco, ShusshunfindiiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaSan José de PayaminoPhoto by Ross Maynard
EcuadorOrellanaTambocochaPhoto by Fernando Ayala
EcuadorOrellanaTiputini Biodiversity StationMcCracken & Forstner 2014
EcuadorOrellanaYasuni Scientific StationCastañeda & de Queiroz 2011
EcuadorPastazaBalsauraOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaKurintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaMontalvoOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaPalandaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaPindoyacuOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaRio BobonazaAMNH 60632
EcuadorPastazaRío BufeoOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaRío ConamboOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaRío CopotazaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaSarayacuRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaSharamentzaPhoto by Danilo Medina
EcuadorPastazaShiripuno LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorPastazaTeresa MamaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorSucumbíosCaiman LodgeThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosComunidad Zábalo, 3.5 km NE ofiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosDurenoYánez-Muñoz & Chimbo 2007
EcuadorSucumbíosEstación PUCE en CuyabenoThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosLago AgrioDuellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosNapo Wildlife CenterThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosSacha LodgeThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosSan Pablo de KantesiyaMHNG 2526.050
PeruAmazonasGalileaUSNM 568006
PeruLoretoDatem del MarañónPhoto by Angel Chujutalli Del Castillo
PeruLoretoJenaro HerreraUSNM 332989