Published June 3, 2022. Updated November 22, 2023. Open access. Peer-reviewed.

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Spotted Sun Tegu (Euspondylus maculatus)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Gymnophthalmidae | Euspondylus maculatus

English common name: Spotted Sun Tegu.

Spanish common name: Lagartija tegú manchada.

Recognition: ♂♂ 16.2 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=5.9 cm. ♀♀ 15.1 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=5.5 cm..13 Species in the genus Euspondylus differ from other similar-sized arboreal microteiids (particularly those in the genera Anadia, Cercosaura, and Selvasaura) in Ecuador by having smooth or striated rectangular dorsal scales, scales on flanks smaller than dorsals, and no pale vertebral stripe.14 Euspondylus maculatus differs from its only known Ecuadorian congener (E. guentheri) by having eight femoral pores on each leg and a uniformly light brown dorsum with scattered minute black blotches and a black lateral stripe (broad and distinct in juveniles but thin and faint in adults; Fig. 1) that encloses cream spots.1,2 In E. guentheri the dorsal pattern consists of transverse bars and there are six pores per leg.1,2 Lizards of the genus Cercosaura may also look similar but they have granular scales on the side of the neck, whereas in Euspondylus these scales are large and plate-like.4 Males of E. maculatus differ from females by being more robust, having a broader head, and a reddish coloration on the flanks.5

Illustration of a subadult male of Euspondylus maculatus

Figure 1: Illustration of a subadult male of Euspondylus maculatus based on photographs of live specimens from southeastern Ecuador.

Natural history: Euspondylus maculatus is an extremely rare primarily diurnal and arboreal lizard that inhabits old-growth evergreen foothill forests. Nothing has been published about the natural history of this species, but other members of the genus are active on shrubs and trees during the daytime and hide under leaf-litter at night.1,3 Most photographic records of this species from Ecuador come from areas of primary rainforest being destroyed for large-scale mining operations (Appendix 1).6 Spotted Sun Tegus are capable of shedding the tail as a method of defense and escape.6

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances.. Euspondylus maculatus is proposed to be included in this category, instead of Data Deficient,7 because the species is distributed over a region of the Amazonian slopes of the Andes that holds large areas of continuous unspoiled forest. Unfortunately, the northern portion of the Cordillera del Cóndor is being cleared to make room for large-scale opencast mining operations.8 Although images of living specimens assignable to E. maculatus are available online (Appendix 1),5 the species remains to be formally “rediscovered.” Euspondylus maculatus has not been recorded in Peru for over a century and taxonomic work is required to clarify the status of Ecuadorian populations.1,7

Distribution: Euspondylus maculatus is distributed along the upper Amazon basin and adjacent foothills of the Andes in southeastern Ecuador (Fig. 2) and northwestern Peru.

Distribution of Euspondylus maculatus in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Euspondylus maculatus in Ecuador. See Appendix 1 for a complete list of the presence localities included in the map.

Etymology: The generic name Euspondylus, which is derived from the Greeks words eu (=easy) and spondylos (=vertebra),9 probably refers to the ease with which the caudal vertebrae in lizards of this genus can become detached to allow the shedding of the tail. The specific epithet maculatus, which comes from the Latin word macula (=spot) and the suffix -atus (=pertaining to),9 refers to the dark spots on the dorsum.10

See it in the wild: Euspondylus maculatus is a species unlikely to be found in the wild using standard methods of field herpetology. Less than ten photographic records and museum specimens assignable to this species exist in total. Furthermore, Spotted Sun Tegus are arboreal, have cryptic habits, and their taxonomic status is still unclear. In Ecuador, the few available records are of individuals being found while primary forest is destroyed to make room for mining operations.

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

Academic reviewer: Jeffrey D CamperdAffiliation: Department of Biology, Francis Marion University, Florence, USA.

Illustrator: Valentina Nieto Fernández

How to cite? Quezada A, Arteaga A (2023) Spotted Sun Tegu (Euspondylus maculatus). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/CWWY4931

Literature cited:

  1. Chávez G, Catenazzi A, Venegas PJ (2017) A new species of arboreal microteiid lizard of the genus Euspondylus (Gymnophtalmidae: Cercosaurinae) from the Andean slopes of central Peru with comments on Peruvian Euspondylus. Zootaxa 4350: 301–316. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.4350.2.6
  2. Boulenger GA (1885) Catalogue of the lizards in the British Museum. Taylor & Francis, London, 497 pp.
  3. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  4. 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.
  5. Betancourt R, Romo F, Chungandro D, Baldeón P (2018) Anfibios y reptiles del valle del Río Quimi, estribaciones de la Cordillera del Cóndor, Zamora Chinchipe, Ecuador. Field guides of the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, 24 pp.
  6. Photos by Sebastián Valverde, Jhandry Guaya, and Raquel Betancourt.
  7. Venegas P, Yánez-Muñoz MH, Cisneros-Heredia DF (2019) Euspondylus maculatus. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-3.RLTS.T48280241A48280245.en
  8. Chicaiza G (2010) El enclave minero de la Cordillera del Cóndor. Acción Ecológica, Quito, 39 pp.
  9. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C., 882 pp.
  10. Tschudi JJ (1845) Reptilium conspectum quae in republica Peruana reperiuntur er pleraque observata vel collecta sunt in itenere. Archiv für Naturgeschichte 11: 150–170.

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

EcuadorMorona SantiagoGualaquizaUzzell 1973
EcuadorMorona SantiagoLos TayosGBIF
EcuadorMorona SantiagoWarintzaPhoto by Sebastián Valverde
EcuadorZamora ChinchipePachikuntza, 2 km NE ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeValle del QuimiBetancourt et al. 2018
PeruSan MartínMoyobamba*Tschudi 1845