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

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Amazon Dwarf-Iguana (Enyalioides laticeps)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Hoplocercidae | Enyalioides laticeps

English common names: Amazon Dwarf-Iguana, Broad-headed Woodlizard, Guichenot’s Dwarf Iguana.

Spanish common names: Iguana enana amazónica, lagartija de palo cabezona.

Recognition: ♂♂ 42.4 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=15.7 cm. ♀♀ 36 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=13.3 cm..1 Enyalioides laticeps is unique among dwarf iguanas in Amazonian Ecuador in having a relatively smooth tail (Fig. 1).15 The species further differs from all other Enyalioides with which it co-occurs by having homogeneous dorsal and lateral scales and no conspicuous dorsolateral rows of enlarged scales.15 This species co-occurs with E. cofanorum, a woodlizard characterized by its scattered, projecting, conical scales on top of dorsum and conspicuous dorsolateral crests.1 Adult males of E. laticeps differ from females by being larger, having a taller crest, and a vivid orangish dorsal coloration (Fig. 1).

Figure showing variation among individuals of Enyalioides laticeps

Figure 1: Individuals of Enyalioides laticeps from Ecuador: Yasuní Scientific Station, Orellana province (); Yuralpa, Napo province (); Río Curaray, Pastaza province (). j=juvenile.

Natural history: Enyalioides laticeps is a locally frequent lizard that is nevertheless difficult to observe during the daytime due to its cryptic camouflage.1 This species occurs in higher densities in pristine terra-firme rainforests but is also present in secondary forests. Broad-headed Woodlizards are active during daytime in shaded areas of the forest understory, staying immobile for prolonged periods of time on leaf-litter or on tree-trunks and logs.1,6 They can also be seen basking in filtered sunlight.2 At night, they roost on stems, twigs, palm fronds, and leaves 0.3–2.4 m above the ground.36 Individuals exhibit high perch fidelity, utilizing the same roosting site for weeks.7 They also tend to sleep beside their den, to which they retreat upon the slightest disturbance.5 The den is usually a hole in the ground, but can also be a hollow log.2,6 Their preferred predator avoidance strategy is staying still and blending against the leaf-litter or running up and around trunks. The diet in this ambush predator consists of spiders, caterpillars, beetle grubs, orthopterans, and earthworms.3,6 There are recorded instaces of predation on individuals of this species by snakes (Siphlophis compressus).8 The breeding season is continuous and the clutch size is 5–11 eggs.3,6

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..9 Enyalioides laticeps is listed in this category primarily on the basis of the species’ wide distribution, presumed large population densities, and presence in protected areas. In both Ecuador and Brazil, it is estimated that 89% of the species’ occurrence area is still forested.10,11

Distribution: Enyalioides laticeps is native to an area of approximately 741,558 km2 in the Amazon basin of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador (Fig. 2), and Peru.10

Distribution of Enyalioides laticeps in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Enyalioides laticeps in Ecuador. 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 specific epithet laticeps comes from the Latin words latus (=broad) and ceps (=head).12

See it in the wild: Amazon 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 at least one per night, particularly at Yasuní Scientific Station and Tamandúa Reserve.

Special thanks to Suzana Lightman for symbolically adopting the Amazon Dwarf-Iguana and helping bring the Reptiles of Ecuador book project to life.

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

Photographers: Jose VieiracAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,dAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador. and Sebastián Di DoménicoeAffiliation: Keeping Nature, Bogotá, Colombia.

How to cite? Arteaga A, Aguiar G (2023) Amazon Dwarf-Iguana (Enyalioides laticeps). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/WBIW4516

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. Castro Herrera F, Ayala SC (1988) Saurios de Colombia. Unpublished, Bogotá, 692 pp.
  3. 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.
  4. Avila-Pires TCS (1995) Lizards of Brazilian Amazonia (Reptilia: Squamata). Zoologische Verhandelingen 299: 1–706.
  5. Dixon JR, Soini P (1986) The reptiles of the upper Amazon Basin, Iquitos region, Peru. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, 154 pp.
  6. Vitt LJ, De la Torre S (1996) A research guide to the lizards of Cuyabeno. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Quito, 165 pp.
  7. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book.
  8. Cunha OR, Nascimento FP (1993) Ofídios da Amazônia. As cobras da região leste do Pará. Papéis Avulsos Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi 40: 9–87.
  9. Calderón M, Aparicio J, Avila-Pires TCS, Perez P, Moravec J (2019) Enyalioides laticeps. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-2.RLTS.T44578903A44578914.en
  10. 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
  11. MAE (2012) Línea base de deforestación del Ecuador continental. Ministerio del Ambiente del Ecuador, Quito, 30 pp.
  12. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C., 882 pp.

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

ColombiaAmazonasRío CaiwimaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
ColombiaCaquetáFlorencia Torres-Carvajal et al. 2011
ColombiaCaquetáMouth of río Cuemani, 30 km upstreamTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
ColombiaCaquetáReserva La AvispaRuiz Valderrama 2023
ColombiaPutumayoMocoa, 10 km S ofTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
ColombiaPutumayoReserva La CristalinaiNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaPutumayoResguardo Indígena HuitoraRuiz Valderrama 2023
ColombiaPutumayoRío PutumayoFMNH 165208; Torres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorMorona SantiagoArapicosMaynard et al. 2016
EcuadorMorona SantiagoCusuimeOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorMorona SantiagoMacumaMaynard et al. 2016
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSawastianOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorMorona SantiagoValle del Río SantiagoPazmiño-Otamendi & Torres-Carvajal 2018
EcuadorMorona SantiagoVilla AshuaraOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorNapoAhuanoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorNapoArchidonaÁvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorNapoÁvilaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorNapoEstación Biológica Jatun SachaVigle 2008
EcuadorNapoHuaorani LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoReserva Río BigaiReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoTenaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorNapoYachana LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoYachana ReserveWhitworth & Beirne 2011
EcuadorNapoYuralpaThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorOrellanaAñanguTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorOrellanaEl CocaÁvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorOrellanaEstación TiputiniCisneros-Heredia 2003
EcuadorOrellanaIshpingoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorOrellanaLagunaAlmendáriz 2011
EcuadorOrellanaLoretoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorOrellanaMiwagunoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaRío BigalGarcía et al. 2021
EcuadorOrellanaRío HuataracuUSNM 211114; VertNet
EcuadorOrellanaRío TiputiniTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorOrellanaRío Yasuní, near Lake JatuncochaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorOrellanaSan José de PayaminoMaynard et al 2016
EcuadorOrellanaShiripunoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorOrellanaShiripuno LodgeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaSPFTorres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorOrellanaTambocochaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorOrellanaVia Maxus, km 120Torres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorOrellanaYarina LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorOrellanaYasuni Scientific StationTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorPastazaAlto Río ArajunoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorPastazaAlto Río OglánUSNM 211146; VertNet
EcuadorPastazaArajunoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorPastazaBalsauraOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaCabeceras del BobonazaUSNM 211133; VertNet
EcuadorPastazaCanelosMCZ 37282; VertNet
EcuadorPastazaCapahuariTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorPastazaChichirotaUSNM 211149; VertNet
EcuadorPastazaConamboOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaCuraray MedioThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorPastazaFinca HeimatlosPhoto by Ferhat Gundogdu
EcuadorPastazaJuyuintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaKapawi LodgeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaKurintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaLorocachiTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorPastazaMontalvoÁvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorPastazaMouth of Río RomarizoRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorPastazaNuevo GolondrinaUSNM 321084; VertNet
EcuadorPastazaPalandaUSNM 211140; VertNet
EcuadorPastazaPalmiraTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorPastazaPiatúaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPastazaRí PindoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorPastazaRío BufeoOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaRío HuiyayacuTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorPastazaRío LipunoUSNM 211131; VertNet
EcuadorPastazaRío PastazaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorPastazaSarayacuTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorPastazaTamandúa ReserveReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPastazaTeresa MamaRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorPastazaUNOCAL Base CampRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorPastazaVillanoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosAmazon Dolphin LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSucumbíosAvíeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosBoca del Río CuyabenoUSNM 211113; VertNet
EcuadorSucumbíosCascalesOnline multimedia
EcuadorSucumbíosComunidad ZábaloCevallos Bustos 2010
EcuadorSucumbíosDestacamento CocayaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosDurenoDuellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosEstación PUCE en CuyabenoVitt & De la Torre 1996
EcuadorSucumbíosLa BalsareñaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosLa Selva LodgeOnline multimedia
EcuadorSucumbíosLago AgrioTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosLago Agrio, 2 km W ofTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosLimoncochaÁvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorSucumbíosLimoncocha, sendero norteReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSucumbíosLumbaqui, parroquia urbanaDueñas and Báez 2021
EcuadorSucumbíosNapo Wildlife CenterTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosPuerto LibreDuellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosRío AguaricoKU 122115; VertNet
EcuadorSucumbíosRío CuyabenoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosRío GüeppiYanez-Muñoz et al. 2017
EcuadorSucumbíosSacha LodgeTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosSan Pablo de KantesiyaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosSani LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta CeciliaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosShushufindiTorres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorSucumbíosTarapoaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosZancudocochaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
PeruAmazonasCaterpizaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
PeruAmazonasPuerto GalileaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
PeruAmazonasShiringaRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
PeruLoretoBarrancaRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
PeruLoretoCampo AndoasValqui Schult 2015
PeruLoretoIntutoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
PeruLoretoPongo ChinimFMNH 2012
PeruLoretoRedondocochaYánez-Muñoz & Venegas 2008
PeruLoretoSan JacintoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011