Mares Leaf-toed Gecko

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Phyllodactylidae | Phyllodactylus maresi

English common names: Mares Leaf-toed Gecko.

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

Recognition: ♂♂ 7.6 cm ♀♀ 9.1 cm. Geckos are easily distinguishable from other lizards by their nocturnal habits and vertical pupils. The Mares Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus maresi) is the only gecko known to occur on the islands Bartolomé, Marchena, Santiago, and Rábida, as well as on Mares Islet.

Natural history: Frequent to locally common. Phyllodactylus maresi is a nocturnal and mostly terrestrial gecko inhabiting deciduous forests, dry shrublands, and dry grasslands where it forages at ground level or on rocks, leaf litter, and trunks of trees up to 2 m above the ground.1 During the daytime, individuals have been found under the bark of trees, under rocks, and inside rotten logs.1,2 When threatened, the geckos flee into crevices. If captured, they may shed the tail. Geckos of this species are preyed upon by Thomas' Racers (Pseudalsophis thomasi).3 Eggs of P. maresi have been found in crevices of an abandoned house in Santiago Island.1

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Conservation: Least Concern.1 Phyllodactylus maresi is listed in this category following IUCN criteria4 because, given available data, the species does not seem to be facing major immediate threats of extinction. The islands where P. maresi occurs are not populated by humans nor major introduced lizard predators (such as cats) and all of these islands are protected within the Galápagos National Park.1 However, in Santiago Island, P. maresi is facing the threat of predation by introduced black rats.1

Distribution: Phyllodactylus maresi is endemic to an estimated 226 km2 area on four islands (Bartolomé, Marchena, Santiago, and Rábida) and Mares Islet in Galápagos, Ecuador.

Distribution of Phyllodactylus maresi in Galápagos Distribution of Phyllodactylus maresi in Santiago Island Distribution of Phyllodactylus maresi in Marchena 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 maresi honors Lodovico Mares, an Italian businessman and Maecenas who funded the expedition that led to the discovery of the species on the islet now known as Mares.

See it in the wild: Since it is a nocturnal species, Phyllodactylus maresi is unlikely to be seen during touristic day trips to Santiago Island. Researchers and members of the Galápagos National Park may visit the habitat of the Mares Leaf-toed Gecko, 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 maresi. 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. Ortiz-Catedral L, Christian E, Skirrow MJA, Rueda D, Sevilla C, Kumar K, Reyes EMR, Daltry JC (2019) Diet of six species of Galapagos terrestrial snakes (Pseudalsophis spp.) inferred from faecal samples. Herpetology Notes 12: 701–704.
  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.