Published February 14, 2021. Updated January 8, 2024. Open access.

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Horseshoe Dwarf-Gecko (Lepidoblepharis buchwaldi)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Sphaerodactylidae | Lepidoblepharis buchwaldi

English common names: Horseshoe Dwarf-Gecko, Buchwald’s Dwarf-Gecko.

Spanish common names: Hojarito de herradura, hojarito de Buchwald.

Recognition: ♂♂ 5.8 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=2.8 cm. ♀♀ 5.6 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=2.8 cm.. Dwarf geckos differ from other lizards by their small size, lack of moveable eyelids, presence of a scaly supraciliary flap, and their leaf-litter-dwelling habits.1,2 The Horseshoe Dwarf-Gecko (Lepidoblepharis buchwaldi) differs from other members of its genus occurring in the seasonally dry forests of western Ecuador by being smaller in body size and having homogenous granular dorsal scales.3 The most similar species is L. peraccae, which occurs in the more humid Chocó rainforest ecosystem. Males of L. buchwaldi differ from females by having a reddish throat (white in females) and by having a silver escutcheon, a characteristic concentration of holocrine secretory glands, on the belly.

Figure showing variation among individuals of Lepidoblepharis buchwaldi

Figure 1: Individuals of Lepidoblepharis buchwaldi from Ecuador: Cerro de Hayas, Guayas province (); Las Balsas Reserve, Santa Elena province (); Hostería SantVal, Chimborazo province (). j=juvenile.

Natural history: Lepidoblepharis buchwaldi is a cryptozoic (preferring moist, shaded microhabitats), terrestrial, and diurnal lizard that occurs in high densities in old-growth to heavily-disturbed seasonally dry forests.4 Horseshoe Dwarf-Geckos spend most of their lives in thick accumulations of leaf-litter, especially along streams.4 When not active, they hide under logs or piles of leaves.4 In the presence of a disturbance, individuals of L. buchwaldi will quickly flee under leaf-litter. If captured, they can readily shed the tail as well as portions of their skin.4

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Conservation: Near Threatened Not currently at risk of extinction, but requires some level of management to maintain healthy populations..5 Lepidoblepharis buchwaldi is listed in this category because, although the species is widely distributed and tolerates moderate habitat degradation,6 its populations are fragmented and occur over an area where most (~68%) of the forest cover has been transformed into plantations and human settlements.7 Therefore, L. buchwaldi may qualify for a threatened category in the near future if its habitat continues to be destroyed. There is no current information on the population trend of the Horseshoe Dwarf-Gecko to determine whether its numbers are declining.6 Fortunately, the species has been registered in ten privately protected areas and one national park.

Distribution: Lepidoblepharis buchwaldi is endemic to an area of approximately 46,529 km2 on the Tumbesian lowlands and adjacent foothills of the Andes in Ecuador (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Lepidoblepharis buchwaldi in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Lepidoblepharis buchwaldi in Ecuador. The star corresponds to the type locality: Hacienda Clementina, Los Ríos province. See Appendix 1 for a complete list of the presence localities included in the map.

Etymology: The generic name Lepidoblepharis, which comes from the Greek words lepidos (=scale) and blepharis (=eyelash),8 refers to the scaly supraciliary flaps that are characteristic to this group of geckos.9 The specific epithet buchwaldi honors Otto von Buchwald (1843–1934), a German engineer, anthropologist, and ethnographer who resided in Ecuador and wrote articles about the country’s natural history.10

See it in the wild: Although secretive, Horseshoe Dwarf-Geckos can be seen with almost complete certainty by carefully raking leaf-litter in forested areas throughout the species’ area of distribution. The species is particularly abundant in Bosque Protector Cerro Blanco, Bosque Seco Lalo-Loor, Reserva Jama-Coaque, and Pacoche Lodge.

Acknowledgments: This account was published with the support of Secretaría Nacional de Educación Superior Ciencia y Tecnología (programa INEDITA; project: Respuestas a la crisis de biodiversidad: la descripción de especies como herramienta de conservación; No 00110378), Programa de las Naciones Unidas (PNUD), and Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ).

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

Photographers: Jose VieiraaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,bAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador. and Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A (2024) Horseshoe Dwarf-Gecko (Lepidoblepharis buchwaldi). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/VQES2104

Literature cited:

  1. 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.
  2. Batista A, Ponce M, Vesely M, Mebert K, Hertz A, Köhler G, Carrizo A, Lotzkat S (2015) Revision of the genus Lepidoblepharis (Reptilia: Squamata: Sphaerodactylidae) in Central America, with the description of three new species. Zootaxa 3994: 187–221. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.3994.2.2
  3. Werner F (1910) Über neue oder seltene Reptilien des Naturhistorischen Museums in Hamburg. Mitteilungen aus dem Naturhistorischen Museum in Hamburg 27: 1–46.
  4. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  5. Carrillo E, Aldás A, Altamirano M, Ayala F, Cisneros-Heredia DF, Endara A, Márquez C, Morales M, Nogales F, Salvador P, Torres ML, Valencia J, Villamarín F, Yánez-Muñoz M, Zárate P (2005) Lista roja de los reptiles del Ecuador. Fundación Novum Millenium, Quito, 46 pp.
  6. Cisneros-Heredia DF, Yánez-Muñoz M, Sánchez J (2017) Lepidoblepharis buchwaldi. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-2.RLTS.T44579331A44579333.en
  7. MAE (2012) Línea base de deforestación del Ecuador continental. Ministerio del Ambiente del Ecuador, Quito, 30 pp.
  8. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C., 882 pp.
  9. Peracca MG (1897) Viaggio del Dr. Enrico Festa nell'Ecuador e regioni vicine. Bolletino dei Musei di Zoologia ed Anatomia Comparata della Università di Torino 12: 1–20. DOI: 10.5962/bhl.part.4563
  10. Uetz P, Freed P, Hošek J (2021) The reptile database. Available from:

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

EcuadorAzuayCamilo Ponce EnriquezMZUA.Re.113; examined
EcuadorAzuayFlor y SelvaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorAzuayRío PatulField notes of Giovanni Onore
EcuadorAzuaySarayungaJosé Manuel Falcón, pers. comm.
EcuadorBolívarCascada de AngasReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorChimborazoHostería SantValThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorEl OroBuenaventura Biological ReserveSánchez and Yánez-Muñoz 2015
EcuadorEl OroCascadas de ManuelMZUA.Re.213; examined
EcuadorEl OroMachala, 10 km SE ofAMNH 112988; examined
EcuadorGuayasBosque Protector Cerro BlancoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasCapeiraPhoto by Eduardo Zavala
EcuadorGuayasCerro CimalónReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorGuayasCerro de HayasThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorGuayasCerro El MateReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorGuayasHacienda MonocongoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorGuayasIsla PunáReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorGuayasLas PavasiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasPlanta Indami, 2 km NE ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLos RíosBosque Protector Pedro Franco DávilaCruz & Sánchez 2016
EcuadorLos RíosHacienda Clementina*Werner 1910
EcuadorLos RíosMaculMZUA.Re.156; examined
EcuadorLos RíosReserva Forestal Cerro SamamaMAE 2018
EcuadorManabíBosque Seco Lalo LoorHamilton et al. 2005
EcuadorManabíCerro Pata de PájaroHamilton et al. 2005
EcuadorManabíCerro SecoPhoto by Michaela Maissen
EcuadorManabíEl ZapotePazmiño-Otamendi 2020
EcuadorManabíPacoche LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíRancho EmyiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíRefinería del PacíficoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíReserva Jama CoaqueReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíRío MantaPhoto by Eduardo Toral
EcuadorManabíSan Lorenzo, 0.8 km E ofReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíSan PlácidoNMNH 234573; VertNet
EcuadorSanta ElenaDos Mangas, cascadasPhoto by Keyko Cruz
EcuadorSanta ElenaReserva Las BalsasThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorSanta ElenaSendero Dos MangasiNaturalist; photo examined