Published December 3, 2021. Updated November 21, 2023. Open access.

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White-striped Eyed-Lizard (Cercosaura oshaughnessyi)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Gymnophthalmidae | Cercosaura | Cercosaura oshaughnessyi

English common name: White-striped Eyed-Lizard.

Spanish common names: Lagartija colilarga ocelada, lagartija rayada de O’Shaughnessy.

Recognition: ♂♂ 16.6 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=5.1 cm. ♀♀ 15.3 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=5.1 cm..1,2 Species in the genus Cercosaura differ from other similar-sized leaf-litter lizards (particularly those in the genera Anadia, Alopoglossus, Arthrosaura, and Loxopholis) by having keeled and imbricate dorsal scales arranged in rows and scales on flanks smaller than dorsals.2,3 Cercosaura oshaughnessyi is often confused with C. argulus, from which it differs by having scales on flanks distinctly (rather than moderately) smaller than dorsals and arranged in 8–12 (rather than 4–7) rows.14 The presence of a femoral pore in the eupreanal position and rows of femoral pores separated medially by two (instead of four) ventral scales further separate C. oshaughnessyi from C. argulus.2,4 Cercosaura oshaughnessyi differs from C. manicata by having reddish brown flanks with black ocelli and two frontonasal scales (uniform dark brown flanks and a single undivided frontonasal scale in C. manicata).16 White-striped Eyed-Lizards present strong sexual dimorphism (Fig. 1): males differ from females by being more brightly colored, with striking red flanks and well-defined ocelli, and having 17–28 (instead of 8–15 or 0) femoral pores.2,6,7 However, it appears like the strong red coloration of males is seasonal, at least in the Iquitos region of Peru, with a peak between June and September.8

Figure showing variation among individuals of Cercosaura oshaughnessyi

Figure 1: Individuals of Cercosaura oshaughnessyi: Aguas Negras Lodge, Sucumbíos province, Ecuador (); Palmarí Reserve, Amazonas state, Brazil (); Llanganates National Park, Pastaza province, Ecuador (); Huella Verde Lodge, Pastaza province, Ecuador (). j=juvenile.

Natural history: Cercosaura oshaughnessyi is a common lizard in old growth to moderately disturbed rainforests, which may be terra-firme or seasonally flooded.7,9 The species also occurs in forest edge, pastures with scattered trees,10 roadside vegetation,9 swamps,11 banana groves,1 and buildings in the forest.8 White-striped Eyed-Lizards are diurnal and terrestrial to semi-arboreal. They forage primarily on leaf-litter, tree trunks, the forest floor,7,11 or rocks and sand along streams and rivers,810 but they also occupy above-ground microhabitats with high structural diversity.7,9 They use their prehensile (capable of grasping) tail and streamlined body to nimbly move along, and hold on to, raised roots, twigs, branches, leaves, and palm fronds, usually less than 1.6 m above the ground.1,9,11 During the daytime, White-striped Eyed-Lizards move under forest shade or in filtered sunlight, which allows them to maintain body temperatures around 29°C.11,12 Individuals are active during sunny and cloudy days, but may occasionally have nocturnal activity.9,10 At night, the majority of individuals are seen sleeping, perched on leaves, stems, and branches up to 2 m above the ground.1,9,11

These active foragers feed on a variety of arthropods: primarily insect larvae, spiders, roaches, grasshoppers, crickets, and katydids.1,11,13 They also consume at least other 15 prey item categories, from beetles and ants to isopods and millepedes.1,11 Lizards of this species can be hosts to intestinal parasites such as helminths.14,15 When threatened, these reptiles quickly take refuge in leaf-litter, sticking their heads out to observe the surroundings after a few seconds.7 They are also quick to shed their bright tail as a distraction to predators.9 There are records of snakes (Xenoxybelis argenteus) preying upon individuals of Cercosaura oshaughnessyi.1 Females lay clutches of two eggs2,7,8 in soft soil or in ant nests,8 with multiple clutches per year.7 Hatchlings measure 17–20 mm in snout-vent length.8

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances.. Cercosaura oshaughnessyi is proposed to be included in this category because the species has a wide distribution throughout the Amazon basin and it is comparatively common7,8 and abundant in most areas. Approximately 56% of the occurrence area of C. oshaughnessyi in Brazil is within protected areas.16 In Ecuador,17 this figure is closer to 23%.

Distribution: Cercosaura oshaughnessyi is native to an estimated 397,102 km2 area throughout the western Amazon basin in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador (Fig. 2), and Peru.

Distribution of Cercosaura oshaughnessyi in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Cercosaura oshaughnessyi 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 Cercosaura, which comes from the Greek words kerkos (=tail) and saura (=lizard),18 probably refers to the long tail.19 The specific epithet oshaughnessyi honors Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy (1844–1881), an English herpetologist who worked at the British Museum of Natural History.20

See it in the wild: White-striped Eyed-Lizards can be observed at a rate of about once or twice per day in well-preserved forested areas throughout their range in Ecuador. These lizards are particularly common in Yasuní National Park, Llanganates National Park, Cuyabeno Reserve, and in the immediate environs of the tows Puyo and Tena. Individuals can be seen more easily during sunny days by scanning the leaf-litter and understory vegetation inside the forest.

Special thanks to Tim Paine for symbolically adopting the White-striped Eyed-Lizard and helping bring the Reptiles of Ecuador book project to life.

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Authors: Amanda QuezadaaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,bAffiliation: Laboratorio de Herpetología, Universidad del Azuay, Cuenca, Ecuador. and Alejandro ArteagacAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

Photographers: Jose Vieira,aAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,dAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador. Sebastián Di Doménico,eAffiliation: Keeping Nature, Bogotá, Colombia. and Alejandro ArteagacAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Quezada A, Arteaga A (2023) White-striped Eyed-Lizard (Cercosaura oshaughnessyi). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J, Guayasamin JM (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/ZHNF3665

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. Doan TM (2003) A new phylogenetic classification for the gymnophthalmid genera Cercosaura, Pantodactylus, and Prionodactylus (Reptilia: Squamata). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 137: 101–115. DOI: 10.1046/j.1096-3642.2003.00043.x
  4. Torres-Carvajal O, Lobos SE, Venegas PJ (2015) Phylogeny of Neotropical Cercosaura (Squamata: Gymnophthalmidae) lizards. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 93: 281–288. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2015.07.025
  5. 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.
  6. Uzzell T (1973) A revision of the genus Prionodactylus with a new genus for P. leucostictus and notes on the genus Euspondylus (Sauria, Teiidae). Postilla 159: 1–67.
  7. Vitt LJ, De la Torre S (1996) A research guide to the lizards of Cuyabeno. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Quito, 165 pp.
  8. Dixon JR, Soini P (1986) The reptiles of the upper Amazon Basin, Iquitos region, Peru. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, 154 pp.
  9. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  10. 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
  11. Vitt LJ, Avila-Pires TCS, Zani PA, Espósito MC, Sartorius SS (2003) Life at the interface: ecology of Prionodactylus oshaughnessyi in the western Amazon and comparisons with P. argulus and P. eigenmanni. Canadian Journal of Zoology 81: 302–312. DOI: 10.1139/z03-004
  12. Fitch HS (1968) Temperature and behavior of some equatorial lizards. Herpetologica 24: 35–38.
  13. Photo by Andreas Kay.
  14. Ávila RW, Silva RJ (2010) Checklist of helminths from lizards and amphisbaenians (Reptilia, Squamata) of South America. Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins Including Tropical Diseases 16: 543–572. DOI: 10.1590/S1678-91992010000400005
  15. Bursey CR, Goldberg SR (2004) Cosmocerca vrcibradici n. sp. (Ascaridida: Cosmocercidae), Oswaldocruzia vitti n. sp. (Strongylida: Molineoidae), and other helminths from Prionodactylus eigenmanni and Prionodactylus oshaughnessyi (Sauria: Gymnophthalmidae) from Brazil and Ecuador. Journal of Parasitology 90: 140–145. DOI: 10.1645/GE-3234
  16. 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
  17. MAE (2012) Línea base de deforestación del Ecuador continental. Ministerio del Ambiente del Ecuador, Quito, 30 pp.
  18. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C., 882 pp.
  19. Wagler JG (1830) Natürliches System der Amphibien: mit vorangehender Classification der Säugetiere und Vögel: ein Beitrag zur vergleichenden Zoologie. J.G. Cotta'scchen, München, 354 pp. DOI: 10.5962/bhl.title.58730
  20. Boulenger GA (1885) Catalogue of the lizards in the British Museum. Taylor & Francis, London, 497 pp.

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

ColombiaCaucaSerranía de los ChurumbelosICN 8248
ColombiaPutumayoCentro Experimental AmazónicoBetancourth-Cundar & Gutiérrez-Zamora 2010
ColombiaPutumayoOritoMCZ R-131100
ColombiaPutumayoPuerto AsísMLS-sau 374
ColombiaPutumayoPuerto Asís, 20 km NE ofiNaturalist
ColombiaPutumayoReserva La Isla EscondidaiNaturalist
ColombiaPutumayoVereda El LíbanoiNaturalist
ColombiaPutumayoVereda Islas de CartagenaIAvH-R-9178
ColombiaPutumayoVereda La EsmeraldaIAvH-R-9285
ColombiaPutumayoVereda Monte VerdeIAvH-R-9146
ColombiaPutumayoVilla GarzónAvila-Pires 1995
ColombiaPutumayoVilla Santa MaríaiNaturalist
EcuadorMorona SantiagoAshuara Village Ortega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorMorona SantiagoChiguazaAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorMorona SantiagoComunidad TiinkTorres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorMorona SantiagoCordillera de CutucúChaparro et al. 2011
EcuadorMorona SantiagoCusuimeOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorMorona SantiagoHuamboya, 9 km S ofMZUTI 5500
EcuadorMorona SantiagoLos TayosAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorMorona SantiagoParque Nacional SangayBrito & Almendariz 2013
EcuadorMorona SantiagoPuerto Morona, 5.3 km E ofPhoto by Ernesto Arbeláez
EcuadorMorona SantiagoRío YuquipaRibeiro-Júnior and Amaral 2016
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSantiago de Tiwintza, 1.7 km W ofTorres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorMorona SantiagoShuin MamusiNaturalist
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSinaí, 4 km S ofiNaturalist
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSucúaRibeiro-Júnior and Amaral 2016
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSuritiakThis work
EcuadorMorona-SantiagoMiazalUSNM 196205
EcuadorNapoAhuanoPhoto by Diego Piñán
EcuadorNapoGareno LodgeThis work
EcuadorNapoGuagua Sumaco, on trail to rio Pinguyo waterfallTorres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorNapoJatun Sacha Biological ReserveThis work
EcuadorNapoMisahuallí, 3 km W ofiNaturalist
EcuadorNapoMisahuallí, 6.5 km ESE of Ribeiro-Júnior and Amaral 2016
EcuadorNapoMisahuallí, 7.3 km E ofMCZ R-178333
EcuadorNapoNarupa ReserveThis work
EcuadorNapoOngota, 2.5 km S ofDoan & Lamar 2002
EcuadorNapoRio HollínTorres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorNapoSacha LodgeThis work
EcuadorNapoSan FranciscoDHMECN 3452
EcuadorNapoSan Jose Viejo de SumacoAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorNapoTenaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorNapoTena, 1 km S ofDoan 2003
EcuadorNapoYachana LodgeThis work
EcuadorNapoYachana ReserveWhitworth & Beirne 2011
EcuadorNapoYarina LodgeThis work
EcuadorOrellanaÁvila, 3.5 km S ofiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaBloque Edén Yuturi, 7 km SW ofiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaBoanamoThis work
EcuadorOrellanaCampo Edén YuturiPhoto by Jorge Valencia
EcuadorOrellanaCampo Yuca SurE&E Consulting 2012
EcuadorOrellanaCocaAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorOrellanaDayumaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorOrellanaEdénTorres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorOrellanaLa Joya de los SachasDHMECN 6864
EcuadorOrellanaLa PrimaveraTorres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorOrellanaLoracachiTorres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorOrellanaLoretoRibeiro-Júnior and Amaral 2016
EcuadorOrellanaMandaripanga LodgeThis work
EcuadorOrellanaNapo Wildlice CenterThis work
EcuadorOrellanaNenkeDHMECN 3387
EcuadorOrellanaNenkepareThis work
EcuadorOrellanaNueva Loja, 18 km S ofKU 148269
EcuadorOrellanaNuevo RocafuerteiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaPaushiyacuKingsbury et al. 2008
EcuadorOrellanaPompeya–Iro road, km 108Torres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorOrellanaRío Yasuní, near Lake JatuncochaThis work
EcuadorOrellanaSan José de PayaminoMaynard et al. 2017
EcuadorOrellanaSanta María de HuiririmaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorOrellanaShiripuno LodgeOnline multimedia
EcuadorOrellanaSinchichiktaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorOrellanaTaracoaAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorOrellanaTiputini Biodiversity StationCisneros-Heredia 2003
EcuadorOrellanaYasuní National ParkiNaturalist
EcuadorOrellanaYasuní Scientific StationTorres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorPastazaArajuno, 8 km NW ofiNaturalist
EcuadorPastazaBalsauraOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaBobonazaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorPastazaBosque Protector Pablo López de Oglán AltoDHMECN 3091
EcuadorPastazaCabeceras del Bobonaza, 2.5 km downstream fromUSNM 193949
EcuadorPastazaCabeceras del Río BobonazaThis work
EcuadorPastazaCampo K4Torres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorPastazaCampo OglánTorres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorPastazaCampo Villano BTorres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorPastazaCampo Villano K10Torres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorPastazaCanelos*Ortega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaCanelos, 6 km W ofUzzell 1973
EcuadorPastazaComunidad CampusTorres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorPastazaConamboOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaEl Triunfo, 3 km NE ofAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorPastazaFátimaAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorPastazaFinca HeimatlosPhoto by Ferhat Gundogdu
EcuadorPastazaHuella Verde LodgeTorres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorPastazaIndichurisUSNM 193952
EcuadorPastazaJatun YakuTorres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorPastazaJuyuintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaKurintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaMeraUzzell 1973
EcuadorPastazaMera, 3 km N ofiNaturalist
EcuadorPastazaMera, 3.9 km N ofiNaturalist
EcuadorPastazaMontalvoOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaMouth of Río ShioneRibeiro-Júnior and Amaral 2016
EcuadorPastazaNuevo GolandrinasUSNM 321105
EcuadorPastazaPuka YakuTorres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorPastazaPuyo, 1 km N ofiNaturalist
EcuadorPastazaPuyo, 2.5 km SE ofUSNM 193948
EcuadorPastazaRío AlpayacuDoan 2003
EcuadorPastazaRío Arajuno, headwaters ofUSNM 196211
EcuadorPastazaRío ConamboUSNM 193953
EcuadorPastazaRío CorrientesRibeiro-Júnior and Amaral 2016
EcuadorPastazaSarayacuUzzell 1973
EcuadorPastazaSumak Kawsay In SituBentley et al. 2021
EcuadorPastazaTinajas del Río AnzuiNaturalist
EcuadorPastazaTzarentzaThis work
EcuadorPastazaVeracruzUzzell 1973
EcuadorPastazaVillanoThis work
EcuadorSucumbiosGüeppicilloYánez-Muñoz & Venegas 2008
EcuadorSucumbíosAguas Negras River LodgeThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosBorboroé DHMECN 4091
EcuadorSucumbíosCooperativa la BalsareñaDHMECN 7501
EcuadorSucumbíosCuyabeno ReserveBursey and Goldberg 2004
EcuadorSucumbíosEstación Amazonas OCPValencia & Garzón 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosLa BalsareñaiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosLa Selva LodgeTorres-Carvajal et al. 2015
EcuadorSucumbíosLago Agrio Duellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosLimoncocha Biological ReserveUzzell 1973
EcuadorSucumbíosNapo Wildlife CenterThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosNWC clay lickThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosPitsorie-SetsaccoDHMECN 4090
EcuadorSucumbíosPozo Jivino BDHMECN 3612
EcuadorSucumbíosPuerto LibreDuellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosPutumayo, trail to Cabo MinachoDHMECN 1621
EcuadorSucumbíosReserva Cofán DurenoiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosReserva Ecologica Cofán BermejoDHMECN 8301
EcuadorSucumbíosRío SingueDHMECN 7964
EcuadorSucumbíosSacha LodgeiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosSan Pablo KantesiyaAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorSucumbíosSani LodgeThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta CeciliaAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta ElenaDHMECN 7793
EcuadorSucumbíosSector Blanca ADHMECN 8338
EcuadorSucumbíosShushufindi, 4 km N ofiNaturalist
EcuadorSucumbíosTotoa NaiquiDHMECN 4093
EcuadorSucumbíosZábaloTorres-Carvajal et al. 2015
PeruAmazonasCaterpizaUSNM 334922
PeruAmazonasHuampamiMVZ 199528
PeruAmazonasLa PozaUSNM 568740
PeruAmazonasPaagatUSNM 316898
PeruAmazonasShiringaUSNM 568749
PeruLoretoAguas NegrasYánez-Muñoz & Venegas 2008
PeruLoretoCampo AndoasValqui Schult 2015
PeruLoretoGüeppi-Sekime National ParkYánez-Muñoz & Venegas 2008
PeruLoretoGüeppi, 5.6 km SE ofSERFOR
PeruLoretoPaiche Playa, 12.5 km NW ofSERFOR
PeruLoretoPaiche Playa, 21 km W ofSERFOR
PeruLoretoRedondocochaYánez-Muñoz & Venegas 2008