Andy Sabin's Leaf-toed Gecko

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Phyllodactylidae | Phyllodactylus andysabini

English common names: Andy Sabin's Leaf-toed Gecko, Wolf Volcano Leaf-toed Gecko.

Spanish common names: Geco de Andy Sabin, salamanquesa de Andy Sabin, geco del Volcán Wolf, salamanquesa del Volcán Wolf.

Recognition: ♂♂ 7.8 cm ♀♀ 8 cm. Geckos are easily distinguishable from other lizards by their nocturnal habits and vertical pupils. The Andy Sabin's Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus andysabini) is the only gecko known to occur on and around Wolf Volcano in northern Isabela Island. The similar P. simpsoni occurs south of the distribution of P. andysabini and usually has an immaculate throat, instead of densely stippled with dark brown pigment as in P. andysabini.

Natural history: Locally common. Phyllodactylus andysabini is a nocturnal and mostly terrestrial gecko inhabiting deciduous forests, dry shrublands, and dry grasslands where it forages at ground level or on rocks and tree trunks up to 40 cm above the ground.1 Eggs of P. andysabini have been found in holes up to 3 m above the ground in mangrove trees growing on the beach.2 When threatened, the geckos flee into crevices. If captured, they may shed the tail. Potential, but unconfirmed, predators include housecats and rats.

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Conservation: Endangered.1 Phyllodactylus andysabini is listed in this category following IUCN criteria3 because the species' area of occupancy is estimated to be smaller than 250 km2, its habitat is fragmented by lava flows, and, although there is no information on population trends, there is an ongoing threat of decline in the number of mature individuals due to predation by introduced species (cats and black rats).1 Alien predators are believed to have decimated the populations of other geckos on the Galápagos (see conservation section in the account of P. duncanensis). Volcanic eruptions are also a serious threat to P. andysabini. Wolf Volcano is in constant activity, with its last eruption recorded in May 2015.1

Distribution: Phyllodactylus andysabini is endemic to an estimated 250 km2 area in northern Isabela Island in Galápagos, Ecuador.

Distribution of Phyllodactylus andysabini in Galápagos Distribution of Phyllodactylus andysabini in western Galápagos

Etymology: The generic name Phyllodactylus, which comes from the Greek words phyllon (meaning “leaf”) and daktylos (meaning “finger”),4 refers to the leaf-shaped fingers characteristic of this group of geckos. The specific name andysabini honors American philanthropist and conservationist Andrew "Andy" Sabin, known also as "Mr. Salamander," in recognition of his life-long support of environmental programs around the world and for his passion for the preservation of amphibians and reptiles. In addition to providing financial support, both personally and through the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation to hundreds of organizations, Andy is directly involved in conservation and field research. He has effectively protected over 264,365 acres of habitat and also participates in expeditions to remote places across the globe in search of new species.1

See it in the wild: Individuals of Phyllodactylus andysabini occur on and around Wolf Volcano, which is inaccessible to tourism. Researchers and members of the Galápagos National Park may visit the habitat of P. andysabini, but only in the context of a scientific expedition or a conservation agenda.

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

Academic reviewers: Miguel Vences, Alex Pyron, and Claudia Koch.

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

How to cite? Arteaga A (2020) Phyllodactylus andysabini. In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J, Guayasamin JM (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from:

Literature cited:

  1. Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J, Tapia W, Carrión J, Guayasamin JM (2019) Two new species of leaf-toed geckos (Phyllodactylus) from Isabela Island, Galápagos Archipelago, Ecuador. In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J, Tapia W, Guayasamin JM (Eds) Reptiles of the Galápagos: Life on the Enchanted Islands. Tropical Herping, Quito, 174–187.
  2. Van Denburgh J (1912) Expedition of the California Academy of Sciences to the Galápagos Islands, 1905-1906. VI. The geckos of the Galápagos Archipelago. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 1: 405–430.
  3. IUCN (2001) IUCN Red List categories and criteria: Version 3.1. IUCN Species Survival Commission, Gland and Cambridge, 30 pp.
  4. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington, 882 pp.