Published July 16, 2018. Updated December 5, 2023. Open access.

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Red-eyed Dwarf-Iguana (Enyalioides oshaughnessyi)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Hoplocercidae | Enyalioides oshaughnessyi

English common names: Red-eyed Dwarf-Iguana, O’Shaughnessy’s Dwarf Iguana.

Spanish common names: Iguana enana de ojos rojos, lagartija de palo ojirroja.

Recognition: ♂♂ 30.4 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=19.2 cm. ♀♀ 26.3 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=17.5 cm..1,2 Enyalioides oshaughnessyi can be distinguished from other lizards in its area of distribution by having a green coloration, granular dorsal scales, a strongly projected spiny vertebral crest, and a skull roof (casque head flattened at the top).1,2 The species is unique among its congeners in northwestern Ecuador in having red eyes and lacking a pale vertical line above the arm (Fig. 1). The most similar species is E. altotambo, but this other dwarf iguana has brown eyes and occurs north of the known range of E. oshaughnessyi.1

Figure showing variation among individuals of Enyalioides oshaughnessyi

Figure 1: Individuals of Enyalioides oshaughnessyi from Pichincha province, Ecuador: Mashpi Lodge (); Milpe Bird Sanctuary (); Kapari Lodge (). j=juvenile.

Natural history: Enyalioides oshaughnessyi is a locally frequent lizard that is difficult to observe during the daytime due to its intricate green camouflage. This species occurs in higher densities in pristine rather than secondary lowland rainforests and prefers to dwell along streams.1,3 Red-eyed 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.3 At night, they roost on stems and tree trunks 0.8–2.8 m above the ground.1,3 Individuals of E. oshaughnessyi avoid predators by staying still and blending against the vegetation or by moving up and around trunks.3

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Conservation: Vulnerable Considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the mid-term future..4 Enyalioides oshaughnessyi is listed in this category primarily because, at the time of the assessment in 2015, the species’ extent of occurrence was estimated to be around 20,000 km2.4 Although current estimates (Fig. 2) suggest a much broader range, the species still faces mounting habitat pressures from deforestation, notably driven by the transformation of rainforests into palm oil plantations. Approximately 74% of the species’ potential distribution area has already been converted into pastures and agricultural fields.5 Furthermore, the area experiences an annual loss of an additional 254 km2 of forest cover. Nearly all lowland localities now lie extensively deforested, rendering the survival of the species there unlikely. Thankfully, periodic recordings of E. oshaughnessyi occur within national parks and private reserves.

Distribution: Enyalioides oshaughnessyi is endemic to an area of approximately 34,536 km2 in the Chocoan lowlands and adjacent foothills of the Andes in west-central Ecuador (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Enyalioides oshaughnessyi in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Enyalioides oshaughnessyi 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 oshaughnessyi honors Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy (1844–1881), an English herpetologist who worked at the British Museum of Natural History.

See it in the wild: Red-eyed 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 1–5 per week, particularly at Bilsa Biological Reserve and Milpe Bird Sanctuary.

Special thanks to Don Taylor for symbolically adopting the Red-eyed Dwarf-Iguana and helping bring the Reptiles of Ecuador book project to life.

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

Photographer: Jose VieirabAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,cAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A (2023) Red-eyed Dwarf-Iguana (Enyalioides oshaughnessyi). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/EANX7035

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. Torres-Carvajal O, Venegas PJ, de Queiroz K (2015) Three new species of woodlizards (Hoplocercinae, Enyalioides) from northwestern South America. ZooKeys 494: 107–132. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.494.8903
  3. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  4. Cisneros-Heredia DF, Velasco J, Bolívar W (2015) Enyalioides oshaughnessyi. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from:
  5. MAE (2012) Línea base de deforestación del Ecuador continental. Ministerio del Ambiente del Ecuador, Quito, 30 pp.

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

EcuadorCotopaxiEl Jardín de los SueñosPellet 2017
EcuadorEsmeraldasBilsa Biological ReserveOrtega-Andrade et al. 2010
EcuadorEsmeraldasBosque Protector La PerlaPhoto by Plácido Palacios
EcuadorImbaburaBarrio San RoquePazmiño Otamendi 2018
EcuadorLos RíosCentro Científico Río PalenqueTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorLos RíosEl VergeliNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLos RíosGavilanesiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLos RíosJaunecheTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorManabíBoca de PalmitoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíBosque Seco Lalo LoorPhoto by Rhianna Banana
EcuadorManabíCerros de AyampePhoto by Matteo Resisto
EcuadorManabíChonePhoto by Jessica Markle
EcuadorManabíEloy AlfaroPhoto by Regdy Vera
EcuadorManabíHacienda San JoseiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíJama Coaque ReserveLynch et al. 2016
EcuadorManabíLos Senderos de TachilaPhoto by Tina Swan
EcuadorManabíManglaralto, 11 km E ofPazmiño Otamendi 2018
EcuadorManabíReserva AyampeMECN, JOCOTOCO, ECOMINGA 2013
EcuadorManabíRío CoaqueiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPichinchaFinca VictoriaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorPichinchaHacienda La HesperiaBrouwer 2018
EcuadorPichinchaKapari LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaMaquipucuna ReserveReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaMashpi ReserveReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaMilpe Bird SanctuaryReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaMonte OlivoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPichinchaPlaya RicaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorPichinchaPuerto QuitoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorPichinchaReserva Un Poco de ChocóPhoto by Nicole Büttner
EcuadorPichinchaRío BlancoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorPichinchaSanta Lucía Cloud Forest ReserveReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaSéptimo Paraíso LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPichinchaTandapiTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSanta ElenaComuna Loma AltaYánez-Muñoz et al. 2009
EcuadorSanta ElenaDos MangasSalvatierra et al. 2014
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasAlluriquín, 7 km W ofTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasFilipinasiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasFinca la EsperanzaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasFinca TinalandiaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasLa Unión del ToachiTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasOtongachi ReserveReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasSanto DomingoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasSanto Domingo, 1 km S ofTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasSanto Domingo, 5 km W ofTorres-Carvajal et al. 2011