Published January 16, 2024. Open access.

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Cornaline Whiptail (Medopheos edracanthus)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Teiidae | Medopheos edracanthus

English common names: Cornaline Whiptail, Bocourt’s Ameiva.

Spanish common name: Lagartija cornalina.

Recognition: ♂♂ 28.4 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=9.4 cm. ♀♀ 16.3 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=5.4 cm..1,2 Medopheos edracanthus differs from other lizards in its area of distribution by having small granular dorsal scales, large squarish ventral scales, a large entire frontal scale, and a cluster of preanal spurs in males.2 In Holcosus and Callopistes, the frontal area is covered by many smaller scales.2 Medopheos edracanthus differs from Dicrodon guttulatum by having parietals arranged in parallel rows as well as by having a different coloration.2,3 Both adults and juveniles of the Cornaline Whiptail have five yellowish longitudinal lines.2,3 In juveniles the dorsum and flanks are dark brown or blackish, whereas in adult males the flanks are bright brick red enclosing green and black spots and the throat is bright orange (Fig. 1).4 Adult females have a more subdued brownish coloration.

Figure showing variation among individuals of Medopheos edracanthus

Figure 1: Individuals of Medopheos edracanthus from Loja province, Ecuador: La Ceiba Reserve (); Jorupe Reserve (). j=juvenile.

Natural history: Medopheos edracanthus is a diurnal and terrestrial lizard adapted to living in well preserved seasonally dry forests and desert thickets,4,5 occurring in lower densities in human-modified habitats such as crops, rural gardens, and cattle pastures.6,7 Cornaline Whiptails prefer semi-open areas near vegetation cover with direct access to sunlight,4 being active only during hot, sunny hours.6 They forage frantically, essentially never stopping as they search for food at ground level.4,6 As soon as sunlight wanes, they retreat into their burrows which are holes in the ground or in rock crevices.6,7 Their diet is insectivorous, with roaches, caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers being the most common prey items.4,5,8 Individuals of M. edracanthus are notably skittish, maintaining a vigilant distance of no less than 3 m from the observer.4 Their primary defense mechanisms are alertness and rapid sprinting, running into burrows to avoid threats.4,6 There are documented instances of predation on individuals of this species by snakes (Boa imperator4 and Oxybelis transandinus9).

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..10 Medopheos edracanthus is listed in this category primarily on the basis of the species’ wide distribution, high population densities, and presence in protected areas.4,10 Unfortunately, habitat loss and fragmentation are ongoing across much of the species’ distribution.10

Distribution: Medopheos edracanthus is native to the Tumbesian lowlands of western Ecuador (Fig. 2) and northwestern Peru.

Distribution of Medopheos edracanthus in Ecuador

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

Etymology: The generic name Medopheos comes from the Greek medea (=genitalia) and pheos (=spiny), and refers to the distinctive cluster of preanal spurs.2 The specific epithet edracanthus comes from the Latin hedra (=seat) and akantha (=thorn),11 and also refers to the preanal spurs.

See it in the wild: Cornaline Whiptails are virtually guaranteed sightings within their distribution range in Ecuador, especially in Machalilla National Park and La Ceiba Reserve. These are extremely jittery reptiles best captured using pitfall traps with drift fences.

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

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

How to cite? Arteaga A (2024) Cornaline Whiptail (Medopheos edracanthus). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/AEZW1561

Literature cited:

  1. Boulenger GA (1885) Catalogue of the lizards in the British Museum (Natural History). Taylor and Francis, London, 497 pp.
  2. Harvey MB, Ugueto GN, Gutberlet Jr RL (2012) Review of teiid morphology with a revised taxonomy and phylogeny of the Teiidae (Lepidosauria: Squamata). Zootaxa 3459: 1–156. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.3459.1.1
  3. Barbour T, Noble GK (1915) A revision of the lizards of the genus Ameiva. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University 59: 417–479.
  4. Brennan R (2010) Un estudio ecológico de las lagartijas del valle seco de Buenavista y de los valles húmedos de La Josefina y Salango. Independent Study Project (ISP) Collection, Vermont, 828 pp.
  5. Castro FP, Morales VR (2012) Comportamiento ecológico intraespecífico en Ameiva edracantha Bocourt, 1874 (Squamata, Teiidae) de la Zona Reservada de Tumbes, Perú. Herpetotropicos 8: 55–59.
  6. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  7. Cuadrado SS, Loor YA, Narváez AE (2020) Herpetofauna of Engabao, Playas Canton, Ecuador, with notes on the occurrence of Ceratoprhys stolzmanni (Steindachner, 1882). Check List 16: 665–674. DOI: 10.15560/16.3.665
  8. Jordán JC, Amaya D (2011) Note on the diet of Ameiva edracantha (Squamata, Teiidae) in Cerros de Amotape National Park, Tumbes, Peru. Revista Peruana de Biología 18: 253–255.
  9. Photo by Dayan Castro.
  10. Aguilar C, Venegas P, Yánez-Muñoz M, Perez J, Lehr E (2014) Medopheos edracanthus. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T50012489A50012646.en
  11. 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 Medopheos edracanthus in Ecuador (Fig. 2). Go to the section on symbols and abbreviations for a list of acronyms used.

EcuadorEl OroEl ProgresoMHNG 2361.097; collection database
EcuadorEl OroIsla San GregorioGarzón-Santomaro et al. 2019
EcuadorEl OroMachalaUSNM 201495; VertNet
EcuadorEl OroReserva Militar ArenillasGarzón-Santomaro et al. 2019
EcuadorEl OroSan RoqueiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEl OroSanta RosaUSNM 201507; VertNet
EcuadorEl OroZaruma, 9 mi S ofTCWC 24122; VertNet
EcuadorGuayasÁrae de Conservación La EsperanzaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasBetween El Prado and Buenos AiresLSUMZ 39396; VertNet
EcuadorGuayasBosque Protector Cerro BlancoSalvatierra et al. 2014
EcuadorGuayasCasas ViejasSalvatierra et al. 2010
EcuadorGuayasCerro Santa AnaKU 121144; VertNet
EcuadorGuayasChiveriaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasEl LimboiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasEl PradoMCZ 83138; VertNet
EcuadorGuayasEstero de AcumbeCuadrado et al. 2020
EcuadorGuayasIsla SantayPhoto by Birds Santay
EcuadorGuayasPlaya el PeladoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorGuayasPlayasDuellman Field catalogue
EcuadorGuayasProgresoMCZ 80966; VertNet
EcuadorGuayasPuerto del MorroiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasRocas del MorroMCZ 83143; VertNet
EcuadorGuayasSabanilla, 2 km S ofUSNM 201476; VertNet
EcuadorLojaAlamorReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorLojaBosque Petrificado PuyangoGarzón-Santomaro et al. 2019
EcuadorLojaCatacochaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLojaCatamayo, 10 km ENE ofKU 134847; VertNet
EcuadorLojaCazaderosiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLojaCruzpambaMCZ 89673; VertNet
EcuadorLojaJorupe ReserveThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorLojaLa Ceiba ReserveThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorLojaLoja, 25 km W ofNMNH 98932; collection database
EcuadorLojaQuebrada El FaiqueVásquez et al. 2005
EcuadorLojaReserva LaipunaWurz 2023
EcuadorLojaRío CasangaMCZ 89674; VertNet
EcuadorManabíBahía de CaraquezNMNH 284057; collection database
EcuadorManabíBosque Húmedo La JosefinaBrennan 2010
EcuadorManabíCabo San MateoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíCabuyalReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíCalceta, 4 km W ofUSNM 201490; VertNet
EcuadorManabíCanoaGGBN 19629
EcuadorManabíCojimiesReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíESPAMLópez Muñoz 2017
EcuadorManabíHumedal La SeguaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíIsla de la PlataTorres-Carvajal 2004
EcuadorManabíJipijapa, 22 km S ofUSNM 201493; VertNet
EcuadorManabíLas Piedras, 3 km SW ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíMantaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíMontecristiUF 127403; VertNet
EcuadorManabíPacocheOnline multimedia
EcuadorManabíPedernalesKU 218384; VertNet
EcuadorManabíPortoviejoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíPortoviejo, La TomateraPhoto by Lisa Brunetti
EcuadorManabíPuerto CayoUSNM 201480; VertNet
EcuadorManabíReserva Cerro SecoPhoto by Michi Maissen
EcuadorManabíRío AyampeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíSalangoBrennan 2010
EcuadorSanta ElenaCangrejoCM 9927; VertNet
EcuadorSanta ElenaDos MangasSalvatierra et al. 2010
EcuadorSanta ElenaManglaraltoUSNM 142602; VertNet
EcuadorSanta ElenaReserva Las BalsasReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSanta ElenaSanta Elena, 31 mi N ofLACM 162543; VertNet
PeruPiuraLa ConstanciaUF 127405; VertNet
PeruPiuraPalo BlancoVásquez Calle 2018
PeruPiuraPiuraFMNH 41589; VertNet
PeruPiuraRío QuirózLSUMZ 35190; VertNet
PeruTumbesCabo IngaTello 1998
PeruTumbesLa AngusturaiNaturalist; photo examined
PeruTumbesQuebrada FaicalTello 1998
PeruTumbesQuebrada La AngosturaJordán & Amaya 2011