Published July 19, 2021. Updated November 9, 2023. Open access.

Gallery ❯

Vanzolini’s Andean Anole (Anolis vanzolinii)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Anolidae | Anolis vanzolinii

English common name: Vanzolini’s Andean Anole.

Spanish common name: Anolis andino de Vanzolini.

Recognition: ♂♂ 21.7 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=10.4 cm. ♀♀ 23 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=11 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. The Vanzolini’s Andean Anole (Anolis vanzolinii) stands out from the other two co-occurring Anolis (A. fitchi and A. orcesi) because of its large size, massive head casque with swollen rugose crests, and large, flat dorsal scales with small granules (small and granular in the other two species).2 The dorsal coloration consists of dark diagonal bands on a yellowish green background (Fig. 1). However, individuals can change their dorsal coloration drastically under stress, resulting in a dark reddish-brown appearance.2,3 The dewlap, present in both males and females, exhibits a central light bluish color, transitioning to an orangish-yellow hue at its periphery, with white granules arranged in rows (Fig. 1).

Figure showing variation among individuals of Anolis vanzolinii

Figure 1: Individuals of Anolis vanzolinii from Santa Bárbara–La Bonita road, Sucumbíos province, Ecuador. j=juvenile.

Natural history: Anolis vanzolinii is a locally abundant diurnal and semi-arboreal lizard that inhabits high elevation cloud forests, maize plantations, and secondary vegetation along road-cuts.2,3 During warm and sunny days, Vanzolini’s Andean Anoles may be seen basking or moving with a characteristic chameleon-like motion.2,3 Individuals are active between 10:00 am and 2:30 pm and spend most of this time on thin branches, stems, and vines of shrubs and trees, but they also descend to the ground and walk across roads.2,3 At night, they have been found sleeping on twigs and branches 1.7–6 m above the ground.3 The diet of A. vanzolinii consists of beetles, bees, cicadas, and moth larvae.2

Reader support helps us keep the Reptiles of Ecuador book 100% free.

Conservation: Critically Endangered Considered to be facing imminent risk of extinction..4 Anolis vanzolinii is included in this category because, at the time of the assessment in 2019, the species was believed to be restricted to an area of less than 100 km2, where human activities had led to the loss of the majority of the native forest cover.4 At that time, the few known populations were confined to fragments of hedgerow surrounded by pastures, with these remnants diminishing in terms of size, quality, and connectivity.4 Presently, the species is still under threat from habitat loss, persecution by humans, and traffic mortality.2 However, a recent, unpublished observation of A. vanzolinii in Vereda el Porotal, Putumayo, Colombia,5 suggests that the species may have a broader distribution and can be found in areas with pristine cloud forest vegetation.

Distribution: Anolis vanzolinii is native to the inter-Andean valleys and Amazonian slopes of the Andes of northeastern Ecuador (Fig. 2), in Sucumbíos province. An unpublished photograph from Vereda el Porotal, Putumayo,5 represents the first record of the species for Colombia.

Distribution of Anolis vanzolinii in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Anolis vanzolinii in Ecuador. The star corresponds to the type locality: La Alegría, Sucumbíos province. 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.6 The specific epithet vanzolinii is a patronym honoring distinguished Brazilian zoologist Paulo Emilio Vanzolini (1924–2013), in recognition of his contributions towards advancing Neotropical herpetology.

See it in the wild: Vanzolini’s Andean Anoles are most easily observed by scanning secondary vegetation along the road leading from Santa Bárbara to La Bonita, Sucumbíos province, Ecuador. Although active during warm, sunny days, individuals can be spotted more easily at night while they are roosting on twigs in semi-open areas.

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).

Author: Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

Photographer: Jose VieiraaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,bAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A (2021) Vanzolini’s Andean Anole (Anolis vanzolinii). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/IEBH3635

Literature cited:

  1. 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.
  2. Williams EE, Orcés GV, Matheus JA, Bleiweiss R (1996) A new giant phenacosaur from Ecuador. Breviora 505: 1–32.
  3. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  4. Cisneros-Heredia DF (2019) Anolis vanzolinii. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-2.RLTS.T50950423A50950430.en
  5. Photo by Ángela Terán.
  6. Allsopp R (1996) Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 776 pp.

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

ColombiaPutumayoVereda El PorotaliNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosLa AlegríaThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosLa Bonita, 14 km N of*Williams et al. 1996
EcuadorSucumbíosLa Playa, 1 km N ofThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta BárbaraWilliams et al. 1996
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta Bárbara, 2 km E ofThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosSibundoyWilliams et al. 1996
EcuadorSucumbíosSitio Las OllasWilliams et al. 1996