Published March 31, 2021. Updated January 9, 2024. Open access.

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Mottled Dwarf-Gecko (Lepidoblepharis festae)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Sphaerodactylidae | Lepidoblepharis festae

English common names: Mottled Dwarf-Gecko, Brown Dwarf-Gecko, Festa’s Leaf-litter Gecko, Amazonian Scaly-eyed Gecko.

Spanish common names: Hojarito jaspeado, salamanquesa pestañuda oriental, geco oriental de pestañas.

Recognition: ♂♂ 8.7 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=4.2 cm. ♀♀ 8.2 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=3.9 cm.. Dwarf geckos differ from other lizards based on their small size, lack of moveable eyelids, presence of a scaly supraciliary flap, and their leaf-litter-dwelling habits.1,2 The Mottled Dwarf-Gecko (Lepidoblepharis festae) is the only member of its genus known to occur along the amazonian slopes of the Andes in Ecuador. It has a brownish dorsum with light orangish dorsolateral stripes on the anterior portion of the tail.3 This species is often confused with Pseudogonatodes guianensis, a smaller gecko that occurs on lower elevations and has white “teardrop” marks on the face.4 Males of L. festae differ from females by being more brightly colored, having a reddish-orange throat (white in females), and a silver escutcheon, a characteristic concentration of holocrine secretory glands, on the belly.

Figure showing variation among individuals of Lepidoblepharis festae

Figure 1: Individuals of Lepidoblepharis festae from Ecuador: Sumaco Volcano, Napo province (); San Pedro, Tungurahua province (). sa=subadult, j=juvenile.

Natural history: Lepidoblepharis festae is a cryptozoic (preferring moist, shaded microhabitats), terrestrial, and diurnal lizard that inhabits old-growth to moderately disturbed cloud forests as well as pastures and plantations adjacent to these forests.5 Mottled Dwarf-Geckos spend most of their lives under dense layers of moss, thick accumulations of leaf-litter, or among roots and rock piles.5 Individuals are usually found at ground level, hiding under rotten logs, rocks, surfaces debris, or piles of leaves, but some have been taken from under moss of trees up to 1.5 m above the ground. There are records of snakes (Bothrocophias microphthalmus) preying upon geckos of this species.6 In the presence of a disturbance, individuals of L. festae will quickly flee under leaf-litter.5 If captured, they can readily shed the tail as well as portions of their skin. Mottled Dwarf-Geckos are susceptible to high temperatures, dying if exposed to the sun or even if handled for longer than just a few seconds. Females lay eggs under moss, damp leaf-litter, and in crevices in dirt walls.5

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..7,8 Lepidoblepharis festae is listed in this category because the species occurs in all major protected areas in the Amazonian slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes (Antisana Ecological Reserve, Cayambe Coca National Park, Llanganates National Park, Podocarpus National Park, Sangay National Park, and Sumaco National Park) and it is distributed over a comparatively wide (~19,617 km2) area that retains the majority (~81%)9 of its forest cover. Therefore, the species is considered to be facing no major immediate extinction threats.

Distribution: Lepidoblepharis festae is endemic to an area of approximately 19,617 km2 along the Amazonian slopes of the Andes in Ecuador (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Lepidoblepharis festae in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Lepidoblepharis festae in Ecuador. The star corresponds to the type locality: San José de Cuchipamba, Morona Santiago province. See Appendix 1 for a complete list of the presence localities included in the map.

Etymology: The generic name Lepidoblepharis comes from the Greek words lepidos (=scale) and blepharis (=eyelash),10 and refers to the scaly supraciliary flaps that are characteristic to this group of geckos.3 The specific epithet festae honors Dr. Enrico Festa (1868–1939), an Italian zoologist who collected the holotype of the species.3

See it in the wild: Mottled Dwarf-Geckos are secretive lizards that are recorded rarely unless they are actively searched for by raking leaf-litter or by turning over rocks and rotten logs in humid, shaded microhabitats. Prime locations for this species include Narupa Reserve, Río Zuñac Reserve, and Maycu Reserve.

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).

Special thanks to David Brouwer for symbolically adopting the Mottled Dwarf-Gecko and helping bring the Reptiles of Ecuador book project to life.

Click here to adopt a species.

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

Photographer: Jose VieiraaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,bAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A (2024) Mottled Dwarf-Gecko (Lepidoblepharis festae). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/MTHJ9841

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. 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
  4. Avila-Pires TCS (1995) Lizards of Brazilian Amazonia (Reptilia: Squamata). Zoologische Verhandelingen 299: 1–706.
  5. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  6. Dueñas MR, Valencia JH (2018) Bothrocophias microphthalmus (Small-eyed Toad-headed Pitviper). Habitat use and diet. Herpetological Review 49: 542.
  7. Almendáriz A, Cisneros-Heredia DF (2019) Lepidoblepharis festae. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-3.RLTS.T44579349A44579356.en
  8. Reyes-Puig C (2015) Un método integrativo para evaluar el estado de conservación de las especies y su aplicación a los reptiles del Ecuador. MSc thesis, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, 73 pp.
  9. MAE (2012) Línea base de deforestación del Ecuador continental. Ministerio del Ambiente del Ecuador, Quito, 30 pp.
  10. 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 Lepidoblepharis festae in Ecuador (Fig. 2). Go to the section on symbols and abbreviations for a list of acronyms used. Asterisk (*) indicates type locality.

EcuadorMorona SantiagoBosque Protector AbanicoLozano & Medranda 2008
EcuadorMorona SantiagoCentro Shuar KunkukCarvajal-Campos 2018
EcuadorMorona SantiagoCentro Shuar YukutaisPhoto by Alex Achig
EcuadorMorona SantiagoEl RosarioCarvajal-Campos 2018
EcuadorMorona SantiagoReserva Biológica El QuimiBetancourt et al. 2018
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSan José de Cuchipamba*Peracca 1897
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSantiago de MéndezUSNM 166142; VertNet
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSardinayacuiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSevilla de Oro–MéndezMiyata 1985
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSucúaUSNM 166142; VertNet
EcuadorMorona SantiagoTambos Mirador–CopalMiyata 1985
EcuadorNapoBorjaMiyata 1985
EcuadorNapoCordillera del DuéKU 121945; VertNet
EcuadorNapoEmbalse CompensadorCOCASINCLAIR 2013
EcuadorNapoHidroeléctrica Coca Codo SinclairCOCASINCLAIR 2013
EcuadorNapoNarupaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoQuebrada PungarayacuMZUTI 1674; examined
EcuadorNapoRío AzuelaKU 158529; VertNet
EcuadorNapoSarayacu, GuacamayosReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoSumaco Camp 1This work; Fig. 1
EcuadorNapoWildsumaco Wildlife SactuaryCamper et al.2021
EcuadorOrellanaCascada de San RafaelTorres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorOrellanaRío Bigal Biological ReservePhoto by Thierry García
EcuadorPastazaBosque Protector Pablo López de Oglán AltoTobar Quiña 2022
EcuadorPastazaReserva Privada AnkakuTorres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorPastazaRío Anzu ReserveReyes-Puig et al. 2013
EcuadorSucumbíosEl ReventadorMHNG 2356.058; collection database
EcuadorTungurahuaCascada MachayReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorTungurahuaComuna AzuayReyes-Puig et al. 2013
EcuadorTungurahuaLa Candelaria ReserveReyes-Puig et al. 2013
EcuadorTungurahuaRío VerdeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorTungurahuaRío Zuñac ReserveYánez-Muñoz et al. 2013
EcuadorTungurahuaSan PedroThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeAlto MachinazaAlmendáriz et al. 2014
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeAlto Machinaza (1300 m)Almendáriz et al. 2014
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeBombuscaroOnline multimedia
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeEl GenairoThis work
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeLa ZarzaDueñas & Valencia 2018
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeReserva Forestal El ZarzaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeReserva Natural MaycuReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeReserva NumbamiTorres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeSendero HigueronesReptiles of Ecuador book database
PeruAmazonasQuebrada ShinganatzaAlmendáriz et al. 2014