Published May 12, 2022. Updated November 23, 2023. Open access. Peer-reviewed.

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Common Root Lizard (Loxopholis parietalis)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Gymnophthalmidae | Loxopholis parietalis

English common names: Common Root Lizard, Striped Root-Lizard, Red-bellied Root Lizard, Common Root Teju.

Spanish common name: Lagartija común de raíces.

Recognition: ♂♂ 9.3 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=4.4 cm. ♀♀ 9.4 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=4.0 cm..13 The Common Root Lizard (Loxopholis parietalis) is a small, slender and brownish lizard having distinctly keeled dorsal head scales and three large, flattened posterior parietal scales forming a semicircle.1,2 Both the dorsal and ventral scales are imbricate, keeled, and leaf-shaped.1,2 In Amazonian Ecuador, L. parietalis can be confused with lizards of the genus Alopoglossus, from which it differs by having keeled dorsal head scales.1 During the reproductive period, males of L. parietalis acquire a bright reddish-orange ventral coloration (Fig. 1); in females and juveniles, the ventral surfaces remain white or cream.1,4 Males also differ from females by having 4 preanal pores in addition to 10–17 femoral pores (0–1 preanal pores and no femoral pores in females).2

Figure showing variation among individuals of Loxopholis parietalis

Figure 1: Individuals of Loxopholis parietalis from Ecuador: Aguas Negras Lodge, Sucumbíos province (); Huella Verde Lodge, Pastaza province (); Ecuador. j=juvenile.

Natural history: Loxopholis parietalis is usually the most common leaf-litter lizard wherever it occurs. This species inhabits areas of old-growth to4 moderately disturbed lowland rainforest,5 as well as forest edges, clearings,1,6,7 and grasslands.8 Common Root Lizards are diurnal,9 terrestrial, and primarily active whenever filtered sun reaches the forest floor,1 but also during cloudy days and even during heavy rains.4 These lizards are leaf-litter specialists,5,10 but they also utilize logs,2 the base of trees, stemless palm fronds, and tangled vegetation11 up to 50 cm above the ground.10 They occur on dry land10 and sand hills but also in damp areas such as depressions in the forest floor, edge of swamps, and along streams.4,12 When inactive or disturbed, these shy lizard take refuge in the leaf-litter or under logs or piles of wood.1,11 Common Root Lizards are active foragers. Their diet is dominated by invertebrates such as spiders, termites, cockroaches, caterpillars, and a variety of other insects.1,4 Individuals of L. parietalis have been confirmed as prey items of snakes (Oxyrhopus vanidicus,1 Micrurus ortoni,13 and Bothrops atrox2) and lizards (Anolis scypheus,1 Potamites ecpleopus,1 and members of its own species1). The breeding season in L. parietalis is believed to be acyclical,1 since gravid females have been found throughout the year.4,12 The clutch consists of two eggs1,4 and the hatchlings measure 17–19 mm in snout-vent-length.12

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..1417 Loxopholis parietalis is included in this category because it is a common and widely distributed species believed to have large and stable populations facing no major immediate extinction threats.15 Additionally, L. parietalis is found in dozens of national parks and reserves and occurs over areas that have not been heavily affected by deforestation. Based on maps of Ecuador’s vegetation cover published in 2012,18 the majority (~89%) of the species’ potential distribution in this country still holds large continuous forest habitat, and ~23% of this area is inside national parks.

Distribution: Loxopholis parietalis is native to the Amazon basin of Colombia, Ecuador (Fig. 2), and Peru.2 The species also occurs in the Andean piedmont of western Venezuela.19

Distribution of Loxopholis parietalis in Ecuador

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

Etymology: The generic name Loxopholis, which comes from the Greek words loxos (=slanting) and pholis (=scale),20 probably refers to the obliquely arranged dorsal scales of L. rugiceps, the type species of the genus.21 The specific epithet parietalis probably refers the unusual shape and arrangement of the parietal scales in this species.22

See it in the wild: Common Root Lizards can be seen with almost complete certainty in forested areas throughout the species’s area of distribution in Ecuador. The species is particularly abundant in terra-firme forests of Yasuní National Park, Cuyabeno Reserve, and Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve. These lizards can easily be spotted by carefully scanning the leaf-litter along forest trails during sunny days.

Author: Amanda QuezadaaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,bAffiliation: Laboratorio de Herpetología, Universidad del Azuay, Cuenca, Ecuador.

Editor: Alejandro ArteagacAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

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

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

How to cite? Quezada A (2023) Common Root Lizard (Loxopholis parietalis). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/DLVU2368

Literature cited:

  1. Duellman WE (1978) The biology of an equatorial herpetofauna in Amazonian Ecuador. Publications of the Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas 65: 1–352.
  2. Avila-Pires TCS (1995) Lizards of Brazilian Amazonia (Reptilia: Squamata). Zoologische Verhandelingen 299: 1–706.
  3. Esqueda LF (2005) Un nuevo Leposoma (Squamata: Gymnophthalmidae) de la reserva forestal de Caparo, estado Barinas, Venezuela. Herpetotropicos 2: 33–42.
  4. Vitt LJ, De la Torre S (1996) A research guide to the lizards of Cuyabeno. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Quito, 165 pp.
  5. Lescure J, Gasc JP (1986) Partage de l’espace forestier par les amphibiens et les reptiles en Amazonie du nord-ouest. Caldasia 15: 707–723.
  6. Layche JF, Ribeyro BO, Acosta A (2010) Herpetofauna en bosque de varillal del Centro de Investigación y Enseñanza Forestal (CIEFOR) – Puerto Almendras, Iquitos – Perú. Acta Biológica Herreriana 1: 35–42.
  7. Whitworth A, Beirne C (2011) Reptiles of the Yachana Reserve. Global Vision International, Exeter, 130 pp.
  8. Beirne C, Burdekin O, Whitworth A (2013) Herpetofaunal responses to anthropogenic habitat change within a small forest reserve in eastern Ecuador. The Herpetological Journal 23: 209–219.
  9. Almendáriz A (1987) Contribución al conocimiento de la herpetofauna centroriental Ecuatoriana. Revista Politécnica 12: 77–133.
  10. Vitt LJ, Zani PA (1996) Organization of a taxonomically diverse lizard assemblage in Amazonian Ecuador. Canadian Journal of Zoology 74: 1313–1335.
  11. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  12. Dixon JR, Soini P (1986) The reptiles of the upper Amazon Basin, Iquitos region, Peru. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, 154 pp.
  13. Martins M, Oliveira ME (1998) Natural history of snakes in forests of the Manaus region, Central Amazonia, Brazil. Herpetological Natural History 6: 78–150.
  14. Morales-Betancourt MA, Lasso CA, Páez VP, Bock BC (2005) Libro rojo de reptiles de Colombia. Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humboldt, Bogotá, 257 pp.
  15. Rivas G, Calderón M, Moravec J (2016) Loxopholis parietalis. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T178582A44955190.en
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. MAE (2012) Línea base de deforestación del Ecuador continental. Ministerio del Ambiente del Ecuador, Quito, 30 pp.
  19. Esqueda LF, La Marca E, Natera M, Battiston P (2001) Noteworthy reptilian state records and a lizard species new to the herpetofauna of Venezuela. Herpetological Review 32: 198–200.
  20. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C., 882 pp.
  21. Cope ED (1868) Sixth contribution to the herpetology of tropical America. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 20: 305–313.
  22. Cope ED (1886) Catalogue of the species of batrachians and reptiles contained in a collection made at Pebas, Upper Amazon, by John Hauxwell. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 23: 94–103.

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

ColombiaCaquetáMonserrateGutiérrez-Lamus et al. 2020
ColombiaCaquetáMoreliaUzzell & Barry 1971
ColombiaCaquetáRío Caguán and Río Caquetá confluence, 6 km N ofMedina-Rangel et al. 2019
ColombiaCaquetáRío Orotuya and Río Caquetá confluence, 18 km N ofMedina-Rangel et al. 2019
ColombiaCaquetáRío YuruyacoIAvH-R-4887; Borja-Acosta & Galeano Muñoz 2023
ColombiaCaquetáVilla MaríaUzzell & Barry 1971
ColombiaPutumayoCentro Experimental AmazónicoBetancourth-Cundar & Gutiérrez-Zamora 2010
ColombiaPutumayoCocayaICN 5484; Borja-Acosta & Galeano Muñoz 2023
ColombiaPutumayoLa CastellanaICN 5485; Borja-Acosta & Galeano Muñoz 2023
ColombiaPutumayoMocoa, 10 km S ofUzzell & Barry 1971
ColombiaPutumayoMocoa, 7 km S ofUzzell & Barry 1971
ColombiaPutumayoPuerto AsísLACM 44672; VertNet
ColombiaPutumayoSanta Rosa de SucumbíosAvila-Pires 1995
ColombiaPutumayoSimón BolívariNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaPutumayoVereda La EsmeraldaIAvH-R-9283; Borja-Acosta & Galeano Muñoz 2023
EcuadorMorona SantiagoCusuimeOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorMorona SantiagoEstación Biológica WisuiChaparro et al. 2011
EcuadorMorona SantiagoLagarto CochaUzzell & Barry 1971
EcuadorMorona SantiagoMarantian Wildlife RefugePhoto by Alex Achig
EcuadorMorona SantiagoMirador de la VirgenPhoto by Fernando Ayala
EcuadorMorona SantiagoRío LlushinUzzell & Barry 1971
EcuadorMorona SantiagoSantiago de Tiwintza, 1.5 km NE ofOnline multimedia
EcuadorMorona SantiagoShuin MamusiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoTaishaUzzell & Barry 1971
EcuadorMorona SantiagoVilla AshuaraOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorNapoAhuanoPhoto by Diego Piñán
EcuadorNapoGareno LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoJatun Sacha Biological ReserveNarváez & Sanmartín-Villar 2016
EcuadorNapoLa Cruz BlancaMCZ R-171943
EcuadorNapoLago AgrioDuellman 1978
EcuadorNapoPitalala ReserveReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoRío PucunoUzzell & Barry 1971
EcuadorNapoSan FranciscoUzzell & Barry 1971
EcuadorNapoSuchipakari LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoTenaUzzell & Barry 1971
EcuadorNapoYachana ReserveBeirne et al. 2013
EcuadorOrellanaApaikaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaBloque 31Libro PetroAmazonas
EcuadorOrellanaBloque PindoPaulina Romero, pers. comm.
EcuadorOrellanaCampo ObeCarvajal-Campos 2020
EcuadorOrellanaCordillera de GalerasUzzell & Barry 1971
EcuadorOrellanaEl CocaMHNG 2437.073; collection database
EcuadorOrellanaEl EdéniNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaGuiyeroAlmendáriz 2011
EcuadorOrellanaHacienda PrimaveraMHNG 2590.083; collection database
EcuadorOrellanaKawymeno (Kawimeno)Comuna Kawimeno Huaorani
EcuadorOrellanaLoretoUzzell & Barry 1971
EcuadorOrellanaNWC Welcome CenterReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorOrellanaRío Bigal ReservePhoto by Thierry García
EcuadorOrellanaRío Yasuní, near Lake JatuncochaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorOrellanaSan José de PayaminoMaynard et al. 2017
EcuadorOrellanaSan Jose Viejo de SumacoUzzell & Barry 1971
EcuadorOrellanaShiripuno LodgeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaSitio A65Torres-Carvajal et al. 2019
EcuadorOrellanaTigüinoUSNM 321092; VertNet
EcuadorOrellanaTiputini Biodiversity Station Cisneros-Heredia 2006
EcuadorOrellanaYarina LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorOrellanaYasuní Scientific StationVitt & Zani 1996
EcuadorPastazaBalsauraOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaBataburo LodgeOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaChuintzaAlmendáriz 1987
EcuadorPastazaConamboOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaDestacamento Militar ShionaAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorPastazaEstación Agro-Ecológica FátimaProaño-Morales et al. 2017
EcuadorPastazaHuella Verde LodgeThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorPastazaJatun MolinoPhoto by Morley Read
EcuadorPastazaJuyuintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaKurintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaMontalvoAlmendáriz 1987
EcuadorPastazaPindoyacuOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaPozo HuitoAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorPastazaRío BufeoOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaSarayacuUzzell & Barry 1971
EcuadorSucumbíosAguas Negras LodgeThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorSucumbíosBaboroé, vicinity ofYánez-Muñoz & Chimbo 2007
EcuadorSucumbíosBermejoUzzell & Barry 1971
EcuadorSucumbíosBlancaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosBloque 27iNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosCampo PlatanilloEnvirotec 2015
EcuadorSucumbíosCofán Bermejo Ecological ReserveYanez-Muñoz et al. 2017
EcuadorSucumbíosComunidad Cofán PisoriéYánez-Muñoz & Chimbo 2007
EcuadorSucumbíosCuyabeno Wildlife Production ReservePellegrino et al. 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosEstación Amazonas OCPValencia & Garzón 2011
EcuadorSucumbíosGarzacochaYáñez-Muñoz & Venegas 2008
EcuadorSucumbíosGüeppicilloYáñez-Muñoz & Venegas 2008
EcuadorSucumbíosLa BalsareñaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosLago Agrio, 7 km NW ofIDIGBIO 43223
EcuadorSucumbíosLaguna GrandeVitt & De la Torre 1996
EcuadorSucumbíosLaguna PañacochaMHNG 2590.078
EcuadorSucumbíosLimoncocha Biological ReserveUzzell & Barry 1971
EcuadorSucumbíosLumbaquiDueñas-Tituaña 2015
EcuadorSucumbíosPuerto LibreDuellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosPuerto OreDuellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosReserva DurenoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosRío EnoCarvajal-Campos 2020
EcuadorSucumbíosRío PañayacuUSNM 163430; VertNet
EcuadorSucumbíosSacha LodgeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosSan Pablo de KantesiyaAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorSucumbíosSani LodgeThomas et al. 2020
EcuadorSucumbíosSansahuariYáñez-Muñoz et al. 2010
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta CeciliaDuellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta ElenaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosTapir LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSucumbíosTarapoa, 7 km W ofMCZ R-163234; VertNet
PeruAmazonasCaterpizaUSNM 568723; VertNet
PeruAmazonasLa Poza, Río SantiagoUSNM 568730; VertNet
PeruAmazonasShiringaUSNM 568733; VertNet
PeruLoretoBellavista, 15 km S ofUSNM 565883; VertNet
PeruLoretoCampo AndoasValqui Schult 2015
PeruLoretoGüeppí Reserved ZoneYáñez-Muñoz & Venegas 2008
PeruLoretoLagarto Cocha, Aguas NegrasUSNM 521045; VertNet
PeruLoretoMashunta Pérez-Peña et al. 2019
PeruLoretoMoroponRodrigues & Avila-Pires 2005
PeruLoretoRedondocochaYáñez-Muñoz & Venegas 2008