Published November 9, 2023. Updated February 8, 2024. Open access. Peer-reviewed.

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Reticulated Creek-Lizard (Arthrosaura reticulata)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Gymnophthalmidae | Arthrosaura reticulata

English common names: Reticulated Creek Lizard, Yellowbelly Arthrosaura

Spanish common names: Lagartija hojarasquera reticulada, lagartija de vientre amarillo.

Recognition: ♂♂ 19.7 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=7.1 cm. ♀♀ 19.5 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=7.0 cm..1,2 Arthrosaura reticulata is a long and slender lizard that differs from other Amazonian leaf-litter lizards by having strongly keeled (rather than weakly striated) hexagonal dorsal scales with overlapping pointed ends.1,3 The dorsal scales are separated from the ventral plates by one or two rows of small, granular scales.1,2 The dorsum is a dark reddish-brown hue that becomes progressively darker towards the flanks, encompassing a reticulum of light yellow spots (Fig. 1).1,2 Adult males can be recognized by being more robust, having a more contrasting dark coloration, and a bright orange-red belly.4 This species may be confused with lizards of the genus Alopoglossus, but they lack the combination of elongate hexagonal scales ending abruptly in a sharp point.2,5

Figure showing a juvenile individual of Arthrosaura reticulata

Figure 1: Juvenile individual of Arthrosaura reticulata from Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos province, Ecuador.

Natural history: Arthrosaura reticulata is a rarely encountered lizard that inhabits old growth terra-firme forests, igapó (=blackwater-flooded forests), and inundated forests along white-water rivers.24 The species occurs in greater densities at the interface between forest and bodies of water such as aguajal swamps, marshes, sandy-bottom streams, dry creek beds, small puddles, and lagoons.37 Though primarily active during sunny or bright overcast days between 9:00 am and 4:30 pm,3,6 these lizards may occasionally exhibit nocturnal activity.8 Foraging occurs in thick accumulations of leaf-litter, but individuals have also been found under logs, fallen tree trunks, fallen palm fronds, or hidden amidst leaf-litter at night.1,2,6 The diet in this species consists of sow bugs, roaches, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, caterpillars, spiders, and centipedes.13 In the presence of a disturbance, these wary reptiles quickly disappear into the leaf-litter or run into the base of stumps, buttresses, or stilt palms.3 If near water, they plunge and dive to the bottom.3 They are also quick to shed their fragile tail as a distraction to predators.3 There are records of snakes (Drymoluber dichrous,9 Oxyrhopus occipitalis,1 O. vanidicus,1 and Bothrops atrox4) and spiders10 preying upon individuals of A. reticulata. Gravid females containing two eggs have been found at different times of the year, suggesting a continuous breeding season1,3 and a fixed clutch size of two eggs.11

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..12 Arthrosaura reticulata is listed in this category primarily on the basis of the species’ wide distribution, presence in protected areas, and lack of major widespread threats. In Brazil, it is estimated that 89% of the species’ occurrence area is still forested13; in Ecuador, this figure is closer to 90%.14 Nevertheless, some populations are under threat due to the expansion of the agricultural frontier, the creation of new roads, and wildfires.13

Distribution: Arthrosaura reticulata is widely distributed throughout the Amazon basin in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador (Fig. 2), French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.

Distribution of Arthrosaura reticulata in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Arthrosaura reticulata in Ecuador. The star corresponds to the type locality: Canelos, Pastaza province. See Appendix 1 for a complete list of the presence localities included in the map.

Etymology: The generic name Arthrosaura comes from the Greek arthron (=joint, link) and sauros (=lizard).15 At the time of description, this genus was believed to be a link between Prionodactylus and Heterodactylus.16 The specific epithet reticulatus is a Latin word meaning “net pattern.” It refers to the pale yellow spots along the flanks, which form a reticulum.17

See it in the wild: Due to their cryptozoic habits, Reticulated Creek Lizards are unlikely to be seen by most visitors to the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador. They are most easily found by actively raking the leaf-litter or by turning over logs along water bodies in primary rainforest. In Ecuador, the area having the greatest number of Arthrosaura reticulata observations is Cuyabeno Reserve.

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

Academic reviewer: Jeffrey D CamperbAffiliation: Department of Biology, Francis Marion University, Florence, USA.

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

How to cite? Arteaga A (2024) Reticulated Creek-Lizard (Arthrosaura reticulata). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/KUPA2185

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. Avila-Pires TCS (1995) Lizards of Brazilian Amazonia (Reptilia: Squamata). Zoologische Verhandelingen 299: 1–706.
  3. Vitt LJ, De la Torre S (1996) A research guide to the lizards of Cuyabeno. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Quito, 165 pp.
  4. Dixon JR, Soini P (1986) The reptiles of the upper Amazon Basin, Iquitos region, Peru. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, 154 pp.
  5. Harris DM (1994) Review of the teiid lizard genus Ptychoglossus. Herpetological Monographs 8: 226–275. DOI: 10.2307/1467082
  6. Hoogmoed MS, Avila-Pires TCS (1992) Studies on the species if the South American lizard genus Arthrosaura Boulenger (Reptilia: Sauria: Teiidae), with the resurrection of two species. Zoologische Mededelingen 66: 453–484.
  7. Almendáriz A (1987) Contribución al conocimiento de la herpetofauna centroriental Ecuatoriana. Revista Politécnica 12: 77–133.
  8. Hoogmoed MS, Avila-Pires TCS (1989) Observations on the nocturnal activity of lizards in a marshy area in Serra do Navio, Brazil. Tropical Zoology 2: 165–173. DOI: 10.1080/03946975.1989.10539437
  9. Martins M, Oliveira ME (1998) Natural history of snakes in forests of the Manaus region, Central Amazonia, Brazil. Herpetological Natural History 6: 78–150.
  10. Reyes-Olivares C, Guajardo-Santibáñez A, Segura B, Zañartu N, Penna M, Labra A (2020) Lizard predation by spiders: a review from the Neotropical and Andean regions. Ecology and Evolution 10: 10953–10964. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.6801
  11. Meiri S, Avila L, Bauer AM, Chapple DG, Das I, Doan TM, Doughty P, Ellis R, Grismer L, Kraus F, Morando M, Oliver P, Pincheira-Donoso D, Ribeiro-Junior MA, Shea G, Torres-Carvajal O, Slavenko A, Roll U (2020) The global diversity and distribution of lizard clutch sizes. Global Ecology and Biogeography 29: 1515–1530. DOI:
  12. Calderón M, Perez P, Moravec J, Aparicio J, Avila-Pires TCS, Rodríguez J (2019) Arthrosaura reticulata. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-2.RLTS.T44578320A44578333.en
  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. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C., 882 pp.
  16. Boulenger GA (1885) Catalogue of the lizards in the British Museum. Taylor & Francis, London, 497 pp.
  17. O’Shaughnessy AWE (1881) An account of the collection of lizards made by Mr. Buckley in Ecuador, and now in the British Museum, with descritions of the new species. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 49: 227–245.

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

ColombiaCaquetáLaguna La CulebraRuiz Valderrama 2021
ColombiaPutumayoBajo MansoyáCahueño & Barbosa 2022
ColombiaPutumayoFinca la CochaUMMZ 131065; VertNet
ColombiaPutumayoInspección Simón BolivarBorja-Acosta & Ocampo 2021
ColombiaPutumayoPuerto AsísMedem 1969
ColombiaPutumayoRío PutumayoFMNH 165778; VertNet
EcuadorMorona SantiagoCusuimeAMNH 113755-61; examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoMacumaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoVilla AshuaraOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorNapoJatun Sacha Biological ReserveReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoRío MisahuallíAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorNapoYachana ReserveWhitworth & Beirne 2011
EcuadorOrellanaEstación Científica YasuníRodríguez-Guerra & Carvajal-Campos 2020
EcuadorOrellanaParque Nacional YasuníiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaSan José de PayaminoMaynard et al. 2016
EcuadorOrellanaTambocochaRodríguez-Guerra & Carvajal-Campos 2020
EcuadorOrellanaTiputini Biodiversity Station Cisneros-Heredia 2003
EcuadorPastazaBataburo LodgeOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaCanelos*O’Shaughnessyi 1881
EcuadorPastazaChichirotaRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorPastazaChuintzaAlmendáriz 1987
EcuadorPastazaJuyuintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaMontalvoAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorPastazaPozo Petrolero MisiónAlmendáriz 1987
EcuadorPastazaRío BobonazaUSNM 196068; VertNet
EcuadorPastazaRío CurarayiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaRío PindoRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorPastazaRío VillanoOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaTigüinoOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorSucumbíosComunidad ZábaloCevallos Bustos 2010
EcuadorSucumbíosEstación PUCE CuyabenoVitt & de la Torre 1996
EcuadorSucumbíosGüeppicilloYánez-Muñoz & Venegas 2008
EcuadorSucumbíosLagartocochaUsma et al. 2016
EcuadorSucumbíosLago AgrioDuellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosLimoncocha Biological ReserveUIMNH 66173; collection database
EcuadorSucumbíosLumbaqui, parroquia urbanaDueñas and Báez 2021
EcuadorSucumbíosRío GüeppiYanez-Muñoz et al. 2017
EcuadorSucumbíosSani LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta Cecilia Duellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosTerritorio Cofán DurenoYánez-Muñoz & Chimbo 2007
PeruAmazonasAguaruna VillageMVZ 174847; VertNet
PeruAmazonasHuambisa VillageMVZ 174849; VertNet
PeruAmazonasLa PozaMVZ 174848; VertNet
PeruLoretoCentro UniónAvila-Pires 1995
PeruLoretoMishanaAvila-Pires 1995
PeruLoretoMoroponAvila-Pires 1995
PeruSan MartínTarapoto, 33 km NE ofKU 211622; VertNet
PeruSan MartínTarapoto, 48 km NE ofKU 209522; VertNet