Española Leaf-toed Gecko

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Phyllodactylidae | Phyllodactylus gorii

English common names: Española Leaf-toed Gecko, Gori's Leaf-toed Gecko.

Spanish common names: Geco de Española, salamanquesa de Española.

Recognition: ♂♂ 8.9 cm ♀♀ 8.4 cm. Geckos are easily distinguishable from other lizards by their nocturnal habits and vertical pupils. The Española Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus gorii) is the only gecko occurring on Española Island and two of its surrounding islets.

Natural history: Common. Phyllodactylus gorii is a nocturnal and mostly terrestrial gecko inhabiting dry shrubland areas. Española Leaf-toed Geckos forage at ground level or on rocks, cacti, trunks, and branches up to 2 m above the ground.1,2 During daytime, they seek refuge under tree bark and lava blocks.1,2 When threatened, geckos of this species flee into crevices, and, if captured, they may shed the tail. They are preyed upon by mockingbirds.1 Females lay eggs under rocks.2

Conservation: Near Threatened. We consider Phyllodactylus gorii to be in this category following IUCN criteria3 because the species is, presumably, not undergoing population declines nor facing major immediate threats of extinction. Española Island is not populated by humans nor exotic predators and is protected within the Galápagos National Park. However, since the Española Leaf-toed Gecko is restricted to a small island and its even smaller surrounding islets, the species is prone to be affected by random unpredictable events (like droughts and introduced species) within a short time period.

Distribution: Endemic to Española Island and two of its surrounding islets (Gardner and Osborn) in Galápagos, Ecuador. Española is the southernmost of the Galápagos Islands and is also one of the oldest and flattest. It has an area of 60 km2 and a maximum elevation of 206 m.

Distribution of Phyllodactylus gorii in Ecuador Distribution of Phyllodactylus gorii in and around Española Island

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 epithet gorii honors Luigi Gori, a Florentine engineer who led a scientific expedition to the Galápagos Islands in 1971–1972.5

See it in the wild: Since it is a nocturnal species, Phyllodactylus gorii is unlikely to be seen during touristic day trips to Española. Researchers and members of the Galápagos National Park may visit the 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: Jose VieiraaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,eAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador.

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

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. 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.
  5. Lanza B (1973) On some Phyllodactylus from the Galápagos Islands (Reptilia Gekkonidae). Museo Zoologico dell'Università di Firenze, Florence, 34 pp.