Santa Fe Leaf-toed Gecko

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Phyllodactylidae | Phyllodactylus barringtonensis

English common names: Santa Fe Leaf-toed Gecko, Barrington Leaf-toed Gecko.

Spanish common names: Geco de Santa Fe, salamanquesa de Santa Fe.

Recognition: ♂♂ 7.3 cm ♀♀ 8.7 cm. Geckos differ from other lizards based on their nocturnal habits and vertical pupils. The Santa Fe Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus barringtonensis) is the only gecko known to occur on Santa Fe Island.

Natural history: Extremely common. Phyllodactylus barringtonensis is a terrestrial gecko that forages on soil, rocky outcrops, and cacti in areas of dry shrubland.1 Santa Fe Leaf-toed Geckos are nocturnal and most active just after sunset until 19:30.1 During daytime, they seek refuge under lava blocks and cactus stumps.2 When threatened, individuals of P. barringtonensis flee into crevices. If captured, they may shed the tail. Santa Fe Leaf-toed Geckos are preyed upon by owls, Santa Fe Lava-Lizards (Microlophus barringtonensis), and Central Galápagos Racers (Pseudalsophis dorsalis).1,3

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Conservation: Near Threatened. We consider Phyllodactylus barringtonensis to be in this category following IUCN criteria4 because the species is not undergoing population declines nor facing major immediate threats of extinction. Santa Fe Island is free of exotic predators, not populated by humans, and protected within the Galápagos National Park. However, since the entire gecko population is restricted to a small island, the species is prone to be affected by random, unpredictable events (like droughts and introduced species) within a short time period.

Special thanks to Ellen Smith, our official protector of the Santa Fe Leaf-toed Gecko, for symbolically adopting this species and helping bring the Reptiles of Galápagos project to life.

Distribution: Phyllodactylus barringtonensis is endemic to Santa Fe Island in Galápagos, Ecuador. Santa Fe is a small and relatively flat island with an area of 24 km2 and a maximum elevation of 250 m above sea level. The vegetation of the island is dominated by the palo santo tree (Bursera graveolens) and the giant prickly pear cactus (Opuntia echios).

Distribution of Phyllodactylus barringtonensis in Ecuador Distribution of Phyllodactylus barringtonensis in Santa Fe Island

Etymology: The generic name Phyllodactylus, which comes from the Greek words phyllon (meaning “leaf”) and daktylos (meaning “finger”),5 refers to the leaf-shaped fingers characteristic of this group of geckos. The specific epithet barringtonensis refers to Santa Fe, previously known as Barrington Island.2

See it in the wild: Since it is a nocturnal species, Phyllodactylus barringtonensis is unlikely to be seen during touristic day trips to Santa Fe. Researchers and members of the Galápagos National Park may visit Santa Fe Island at night, but only in the context of a scientific expedition or a conservation agenda.

Authors: Alejandro Arteaga,aAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador. Gabriela Aguiar, and Juan M GuayasaminbAffiliation: Laboratorio de Biología Evolutiva, Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), Quito, Ecuador.,cAffiliation: Galapagos Science Center, Galápagos, Ecuador.,dAffiliation: Centro de Investigación de la Biodiversidad y Cambio Climático, Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica, Quito, Ecuador.

Academic reviewers: Cruz Márquez.

Photographers: Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A, Aguiar G, Guayasamin JM (2020) Phyllodactylus barringtonensis. 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. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  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. Washington Tapia, unpublished data.
  4. IUCN (2001) IUCN Red List categories and criteria: Version 3.1. IUCN Species Survival Commission, Gland and Cambridge, 30 pp.
  5. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington, 882 pp.