Published May 30, 2019. Updated December 26, 2023. Open access.

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Tumbesian Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus kofordi)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Phyllodactylidae | Phyllodactylus kofordi

English common names: Tumbesian Leaf-toed Gecko, Koford’s Leaf-toed Gecko.

Spanish common names: Geco tumbesino, salamanquesa de Koford.

Recognition: ♂♂ 9.3 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=4.5 cm. ♀♀ 9.6 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=4.6 cm..1 Phyllodactylus kofordi is easily distinguishable from other geckos occurring in the dry forests of southwestern Ecuador by having narrow and rounded digital disks and dorsal surfaces covered by densely packed tubercles that are strongly keeled, large, and trihedral (Fig. 1).1,2 The dorsal coloration is usually pale grayish brown with broad irregular dark blotches and a thin black postocular stripe that extends beyond the insertion of the forearms (Fig. 1).1 Phyllodactylus kofordi differs from P. reissii by having large tubercles on the dorsal aspect of the tail (absent in P. reissii).1

Figure showing variation among individuals of Phyllodactylus kofordi

Figure 1: Individuals of Phyllodactylus kofordi from Bella María Grande, Loja province, Ecuador. j=juvenile.

Natural history: Phyllodactylus kofordi is a nocturnal and terrestrial to semiarboreal gecko that inhabits dry shrublands, deserts, and deciduous to semideciduous forests.14 During dry, clear nights, Tumbesian Leaf-toed Geckos forage at ground level or on rocks, boulders and shrubs up to 2.5 m above the ground.14 By daytime, they seek refuge in crevices, holes, leaf-litter, bark, debris, and under trash.1 Breeding takes place throughout the year, with clutches of a single egg laid in communal nesting sites, usually under rotting cacti alongside clutches of P. reissii.1 The diet in this species consists of insects smaller than 15 mm, including beetles, caterpillars, ants, flies, arachnids, pseudoscorpions, and hemipterans.5 In the presence of a disturbance, the typical escape tactic is to flee into crevices

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..6 Phyllodactylus kofordi is listed in this category because this species is widespread, thrives in human-modified environments and has not been shown conclusively to have undergone population declines. Although Tumbesian Leaf-toed Geckos are not considered a human commensal species, they do thrive in anthropic areas such as along roadsides and in rock walls.3

Distribution: Phyllodactylus kofordi is native to the Tumbesian lowlands of southwestern Ecuador and northwestern Peru (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Phyllodactylus kofordi in Ecuador

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

Etymology: The generic name Phyllodactylus comes from the Greek words phyllon (=leaf) and daktylos (=finger),7 and refers to the leaf-shaped fingers characteristic of this group of geckos. The specific epithet kofordi honors Carl Koford (1915–1979), an American biologist who has greatly contributed to the knowledge of the reptilian fauna of Peru.1

See it in the wild: In Ecuador, Phyllodactylus kofordi is considered a locally common species in some areas. For example, these geckos are guaranteed sightings during night hikes along forest trails of Reserva Natural La Ceiba and Reserva Laipuna. The best time to look for lizards of this species is just after sunset.

Authors: Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador. and Gabriela AguiarbIndependent researcher, Quito, Ecuador.

Photographer: Jose VieiracAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,dAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A, Aguiar G (2023) Tumbesian Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus kofordi). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/HTTS2397

Literature cited:

  1. Dixon JR, Huey RB (1970) Systematics of the lizards of the gekkonid genus Phyllodactylus of mainland South America. Los Angeles County Museum Contributions in Science 192: 1–78. DOI: 10.5962/p.241179
  2. Torres-Carvajal O, Carvajal-Campos A, Barnes CW, Nicholls G, Pozo-Andrade MJ (2013) A new Andean species of Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylidae: Phyllodactylus) from Ecuador. Journal of Herpetology 47: 384–390. DOI: 10.1670/12-017
  3. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  4. Carillo de Espinoza N, Icochea J (1995) Lista taxonómica preliminar de los reptiles vivientes del Perú. Publicaciones del Museo de Historia Natural, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos 49: 1–27.
  5. Huey RB (1979) Parapatry and niche complementarity of Peruvian desert geckos (Phyllodactylus): the ambiguous role of competition. Oecologia 38: 249–259. DOI: 10.1007/BF00345186
  6. Venegas P, Perez J, Aguilar C, Quiroz Rodriguez A (2016) Phyllodactylus kofordi. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T48442821A48442826.en
  7. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington, 882 pp.

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

EcuadorLojaBella María GrandeThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorLojaCabeza de Toro, 3.5 km NW ofReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorLojaCazaderosiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLojaLa vertiente de ZapallalTorres-Carvajal et al. 2014
EcuadorLojaMangahurcoPhoto by Fausto Siavichay
EcuadorLojaNumbiarangaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorLojaPortachueloReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorLojaProgresoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLojaQuebrada El FaiqueTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorLojaReserva La CeibaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorLojaReserva LaipunaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorLojaVertiente de ZapallalTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorLojaZapotilloMármol–Guijarro & Rodríguez-Guerra 2020
PeruPiuraCastillaiNaturalist; photo examined
PeruPiuraCerro AmotapeDixon & Huey 1970
PeruPiuraLas Lomas, 3 km ENE ofDixon & Huey 1970
PeruPiuraLobitos, 30 mi S ofDixon & Huey 1970
PeruPiuraNegritosDixon & Huey 1970
PeruPiuraPaitaDixon & Huey 1970
PeruPiuraPalo BlancoVásquez Calle 2018
PeruPiuraPiura, 2 km W ofiNaturalist; photo examined
PeruPiuraPozasTorres-Carvajal et al. 2014
PeruPiuraPuente de MáncoraReptiles of Ecuador book database
PeruPiuraSullanaDixon & Huey 1970
PeruPiuraSullana, 40 km WNW ofDixon & Huey 1970
PeruPiuraTalaraDixon & Huey 1970
PeruTumbesCancas, 1.2 km S ofDixon & Huey 1970
PeruTumbesPuerto Pizarro, 1 km E ofDixon & Huey 1970
PeruTumbesQuebrada SecaDixon & Huey 1970