Published July 16, 2018. Updated December 4, 2023. Open access.

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Cofán Dwarf-Iguana (Enyalioides cofanorum)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Hoplocercidae | Enyalioides cofanorum

English common names: Cofán Dwarf-Iguana, Cofán Woodlizard.

Spanish common names: Iguana enana Cofán, lagartija de palo de los Cofanes.

Recognition: ♂♂ 23.8 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=10.7 cm. ♀♀ 24.2 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=10.9 cm..13 Enyalioides cofanorum differs from other medium-sized spiny lizards in the Ecuadorian Amazon by its granular dorsal scales, strongly projected spiny vertebral crest, skull roof (casque head flattened at the top), and unique coloration. The dorsum is yellowish-brown with jaguar-like brown spots, a dark subocular mark, and a blackish throat patch (Fig. 1).13 The species further differs from the other dwarf iguanas in Amazonian Ecuador by having having scattered, projecting, conical scales on top of dorsum in combination with continuous and conspicuous dorsolateral crests that reach beyond the level of the hind limbs.13 This species is often confused with E. microlepis. In adult males of the latter species, the projecting dorsal scales are lacking (smooth dorsum), and the dorsolateral crests are incomplete and inconspicuous.1 Males of E. cofanorum are larger than females and have a more contrastig coloration.13

Figure showing variation among individuals of Enyalioides cofanorum

Figure 1: Individuals of Enyalioides cofanorum from Sani Lodge, Sucumbíos province, Ecuador. j=juvenile.

Natural history: Enyalioides cofanorum is an extremely rare lizard that is difficult to observe during the daytime due to its cryptic camouflage. This species occurs in pristine lowland rainforests, which may be terra-firme or seasonally flooded by white-water or black-water rivers.14 Cofán Woodlizards are active during the daytime on shaded areas of the forest floor, staying immobile for prolonged periods of time on the leaf-litter or on logs.16 At night, they roost on stems, twigs, and ferns 0.4–1.5 m above the ground.16 Their preferred predator avoidance strategy is staying still and blending against the leaf-litter or running into cover.5 The diet in this ambush predator consists primarily of earthworms, sow bugs, spiders, beetles, and orthopterans.2 Clutches consist of 2–5 eggs.2,5

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..7 Enyalioides cofanorum is listed in this category primarily on the basis of the species’ wide distribution, presumed stable populations, and presence in protected areas. Nevertheless, the species is considerably less widespread than previously thought, since records of E. cofanorum from Peru likely correspond to E. microlepis.

Distribution: Enyalioides cofanorum is endemic to the northern portion of the Ecuadorian Amazon, in Napo, Orellarana, and Sucumbíos provinces (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Enyalioides cofanorum in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Enyalioides cofanorum in Ecuador. The star corresponds to the type locality: Santa Cecilia, Sucumbíos province. See Appendix 1 for a complete list of the presence localities included in the map.

Etymology: The generic name Enyalioides, which comes from the Latin words Enyalius (a genus of neotropical lizards) and the suffix oides (=similar to), refers to the similarity between lizards of the two genera. The species is named in honor of the Cofán indigenous people, who inhabit the upper reaches of the Río Aguarico and distinguish two kinds of “cameléon” (=Enyalioides) in the area.3

See it in the wild: Cofán Dwarf-Iguanas are usually found in closed-canopy situations rather than in open or semi-open areas. These cryptic reptiles are easier to detect by sampling well-preserved forest trails at night with the aid of a flashlight. In this way, roosting individuals may be detected at a rate of 1–3 individuals per month, particularly at Sani Lodge and Yasuní National Park.

Authors: Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador. and Gabriela AguiarbIndependent researcher, Quito, Ecuador.

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

How to cite? Arteaga A, Aguiar G (2023) Cofán Dwarf-Iguana (Enyalioides cofanorum). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/IHCP4063

Literature cited:

  1. Torres-Carvajal O, Etheridge R, de Queiroz K (2011) A systematic revision of Neotropical lizards in the clade Hoplocercinae (Squamata: Iguania). Zootaxa 2752: 1–44. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.2752.1.1
  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. Duellman WE (1973) Descriptions of new lizards from the upper Amazon basin. Herpetologica 29: 228–231.
  4. Thomas O, Bird D, O’Donovan G (2020) The fish and herpetofauna of the Sani Reserve, Ecuador. Operation Wallacea, Lincolnshire, 262 pp.
  5. Cisneros-Heredia DF (2005) Enyalioides cofanorum (Cofan Wood Lizard): reproduction. Herpetological Review 36: 176–177.
  6. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book.
  7. Calderón M, Cisneros-Heredia DF, Perez P (2016) Enyalioides cofanorum. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T44578890A44578897.en

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

EcuadorNapoSanta Rosa de OtasiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaConcepciónTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorOrellanaEl Edén Amazon LodgeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaLoretoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorOrellanaNapo Wildlife CenterReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorOrellanaNPF, 4 km W ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaPozo 16Torres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorOrellanaPuerto EdénTorres-Carvajal et al. 2023
EcuadorOrellanaTiputini Biodiversity Station Cisneros-Heredia 2003
EcuadorOrellanaVía Pompeya Sur–Iro, km 66Torres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosLa Selva LodgeTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosLimoncochaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosLumbaquiTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosSacha LodgeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosSani LodgeThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta Cecilia*Duellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosTarapoaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosTerritorio Cofán DurenoiNaturalist; photo examined