Published November 5, 2023. Updated January 5, 2024. Open access.

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Smooth-bellied Bush-Anole (Polychrus liogaster)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Polychrotidae | Polychrus liogaster

English common names: Smooth-bellied Bush-Anole, Boulenger’s Monkey Lizard.

Spanish common names: Falso camaleón ventriliso, falso camaleón de Boulenger, lagartija arbustiva de Boulenger.

Recognition: ♂♂ 49.2 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=13.4 cm. ♀♀ 55.8 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=15.2 cm..1 The Smooth-bellied Bush-Anole is a medium-sized lizard characterized by a laterally compressed body and an exceptionally long tail.1 It differs from other lizards in its area of distribution by having smooth ventral scales and three black lines radiating from each eye, with two of them reaching the level of the forelimbs (Fig. 1).1,2 The scales on the sides of the neck are slightly larger than those on the nape, and the enlarged scales of the gular crest are both low and wide.1 The dorsal coloration can be green or brown with or without a wide reddish-brown vertebral band. Some individuals exhibit V-shaped diagonal light marks along the back or flanks.1,3 Polychrus liogaster can be distinguished from P. marmoratus by having smoother scales on the venter and flanks, and by a different color pattern: black lines that radiate from the eyes and continue along the neck, whereas in P. marmoratus the postocular lines do not extend beyond the head.1

Figure showing a juvenile individual of Polychrus liogaster

Figure 1: Juvenile of Polychrus liogaster from Canelos, Pastaza province, Ecuador.

Natural history: Polychrus liogaster is an extremely rare lizard in Ecuador, with only 10 confirmed sightings. Often overlooked due to its strictly arboreal habits and green leaf-like coloration,1,3 this species inhabits the canopy of seasonally flooded whitewater forests and terra firme forests.1,3 Like a chameleon, the movements of the bush anole through the foliage are slow. Most activity occurs during rainless days on bushes, vines, and thin branches of trees along forest clearings up to at least 8 m above the forest floor.1,3 At night, Smooth-bellied Bush-Anoles sleep on lower (0.5–5 m above the ground) perches, which may be twigs, vines, and branches.4,5 Polychrus liogaster is a primarily insectivorous lizard that hunts using a passive strategy. Its diet is composed of homopterans, lepidopterans, and caterpillars.3 Females lay clutches of 10 eggs.2

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..6 Polychrus liogaster is listed in this category primarily on the basis of the species’ wide distribution, presence in protected areas, and lack of major widespread threats.6 In Brazil, it is estimated that 73% of the species’ occurrence area is still forested7; in Ecuador, this figure is closer to 86%.8 Nevertheless, some populations are under threat due to the expansion of the agricultural frontier, the creation of new roads, and wildfires.7

Distribution: Polychrus liogaster has a broad (~261,020 km2) peri-Amazonian distribution range, from east-central Ecuador (Fig. 2) to northern Bolivia and eastward to southern Brazil. This species seems to be restricted to the south and west edges of the Amazon basin.7

Distribution of Polychrus liogaster in Ecuador

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

Etymology: The generic name Polychrus comes from the Greek words poly (=many) and chroma (=color),9 and refers to the variegated dorsal coloration.10 The specific epithet liogaster is a combination of the Greek words lio (=smooth) and gaster (=belly),9 and refers to the comparatively smooth ventral scales.

See it in the wild: Reliably observing Smooth-bellied Bush-Anoles within their distribution area in Ecuador is a challenging endeavor. This species has been reported in Ecuador on just ten occasions. While these reptiles can occasionally be sighted actively moving about on high branches during the day, they become more accessible for observation during the night. At night, they can be found slumbering on twigs closer to the ground, making it easier to spot and approach them.

Authors: Belén Morales,aAffiliation: Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Quito, Ecuador. Juan M Guayasamin,aAffiliation: Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Quito, Ecuador. and Alejandro ArteagabAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

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

How to cite? Morales B, Guayasamin JM, Arteaga A (2024) Smooth-bellied Bush-Anole (Polychrus liogaster). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/GYMH9121

Literature cited:

  1. Avila-Pires TCS (1995) Lizards of Brazilian Amazonia (Reptilia: Squamata). Zoologische Verhandelingen 299: 1–706.
  2. Duellman WE (2005) Cusco amazónico: the lives of amphibians and reptiles in an Amazonian rainforest. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 433 pp.
  3. Bouleger GA (1908) Descriptions of new batrachians and reptiles discovered by Mr. M. G. Palmer in South-western Colombia. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 8: 515–522.
  4. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  5. Photo by Vincent Vos.
  6. Avila-Pires TCS, Cisneros-Heredia DF, Perez P (2019) Polychrus liogaster. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-2.RLTS.T203163A2761318.en
  7. Ribeiro-Júnior MA, Amaral S (2016) Diversity, distribution, and conservation of lizards (Reptilia: Squamata) in the Brazilian Amazonia. Neotropical Biodiversity 2: 195–421. DOI: 10.1080/23766808.2016.1236769
  8. MAE (2012) Línea base de deforestación del Ecuador continental. Ministerio del Ambiente del Ecuador, Quito, 30 pp.
  9. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C., 882 pp.
  10. Linnaeus C (1758) Systema Naturae. Editio Decima, Reformata. Impensis Laurentii Salvii, Stockholm, 824 pp.

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

EcuadorMorona SantiagoMacumaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorNapoAllpa MamaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorNapoJatun Sacha Biological ReserveVigle 2008
EcuadorNapoSan Pablo de UshpayacuiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaÁvila ViejoGuerra-Correa 2018
EcuadorOrellanaSan José de PayaminoMaynard et al. 2017
EcuadorPastazaCanelosThis work; Fig. 1
EcuadorPastazaChichirotaRibeiro-Júnior 2015
EcuadorPastazaPaloraiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaRío PuyoiNaturalist; photo examined