Amazon Dwarf-Iguana

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Hoplocercidae | Enyalioides laticeps

Spanish common name: Iguana enana amazónica.

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Conservation: Least Concern.

Recognition: ♂♂ 42.4 cm ♀♀ 36 cm. Enyalioides laticeps is the only dwarf iguana in Amazonian Ecuador having a relatively smooth tail, and a longitudinal pale stripe running from the corner of the mouth to the tympanum.1 Adults of this species also have a middorsal crest higher than that of other species.2 A species similar in coloration is E. praestabilis, but this lizard lacks the horizontal lip stripe.

Picture: Adult male.

Adult male Enyalioides laticeps

Picture: Adult female.

Adult male Enyalioides laticeps

Picture: Subadult male.

Subadult male Enyalioides laticeps

Picture: Juvenile.

Juvenile Enyalioides laticeps

Natural history: Frequent. Enyalioides laticeps is a diurnal sunlight-loving3 semiarboreal lizard that sleeps inside holes in the ground or on stems or palm fronds4 30–240 cm above the ground during the night. It is more common in primary evergreen forest but is also found in secondary forest.5 Enyalioides laticeps is an ambush predator4 that feeds mostly on spiders, caterpillars, and beetle grubs,5 but it also includes grasshoppers, crickets, and earthworms in its diet.4 This species is preyed upon by the snake Siphlophis compressus.6 Females of E. laticeps breed throughout the year3 and are capable of laying between 5 and 11 eggs.3,7 This species avoids predators by staying still and blending against the vegetation or by moving up and around trunks,4 but is also capable of running suddently under logs or in holes in the ground.

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Conservation: Least Concern. We consider Enyalioides laticeps to be in this category following IUCN criteria8 because it is widely distributed, occurs in protected areas and (presumably) is not undergoing population declines nor facing major immediate threats of extinction.

Distribution: Native to the upper Amazon basin in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

Distribution of Enyalioides laticeps in Ecuador

Etymology: The generic name Enyalioides, which comes from the Latin words Enyalius (a genus of Neotropical lizards) and oides (meaning “similar to”), refers to the similarity between lizards of the two genera.9 The specific epithet laticeps, which comes from the Latin words latus (meaning “broad”) and ceps (meaning “head”),10 is appropriate for this big-headed species.

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 Aguiar.

Literature cited:

  1. Torres-Carvajal O, Etheridge R, De Queiroz K (2011) A systematic revision of Neotropical lizards in the clade Hoplocercinae. Zootaxa 2752: 1–44.
  2. Avila-Pires TCS (1995) Lizards of Brazilian Amazonia (Reptilia: Squamata). Zoologische Verhandelingen 299: 1–706.
  3. Dixon R, Soini P (1986) The reptiles of the upper Amazon Basin, Iquitos region, Peru. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, 154 pp.
  4. Vitt LJ, De La Torre S (1996) A Research guide to the lizards of Cuyabeno. Imprenta Mariscal, Quito, 165 pp.
  5. Duellman WE (1978) The biology of an equatorial herpetofauna in Amazonian Ecuador. Miscellaneous Publications of the Museum of Natural History University of Kansas 65: 1–352.
  6. Medem F (1969) Desarrollo de la herpetologia en Colombia. Revista de la Academia Colombiana de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales 13: 149–199.
  7. Duellman WE (2005) Cusco Amazónico: The lives of amphibians and reptiles in an Amazonian rainforest. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 433 pp.
  8. IUCN (2001) IUCN Red List categories and criteria: Version 3.1. IUCN Species Survival Commission, Gland and Cambridge, 30 pp.
  9. Torres-Carvajal O, Pazmiño-Otamendi G, Salazar-Valenzuela D (2018) Reptiles del Ecuador. Version 2018.0. Available from:
  10. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington, 882 pp.