Published September 23, 2023. Updated January 10, 2024. Open access.

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Amazon Pygmy Gecko (Pseudogonatodes guianensis)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Sphaerodactylidae | Pseudogonatodes guianensis

English common names: Amazon Pygmy Gecko, Pygmy Forest-Gecko.

Spanish common names: Hojarito enano amazónico.

Recognition: ♂♂ 5.2 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=2.8 cm. ♀♀ 5.6 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=3.0 cm..1 Dwarf geckos differ from other lizards based on their small size, lack of moveable eyelids, presence of a scaly supraciliary flap, and their leaf-litter-dwelling habits.2,3 Unlike day geckos of the genus Gonatodes, the claws on the fingers and toes of Pseudogonatodes are capable of being retracted into a sheath.4 The Pygmy Forest-Gecko (Pseudogonatodes guianensis) stands as the sole representative of its genus in the Amazonian lowlands of Ecuador. It boasts a brownish dorsal coloration adorned with a black-bordered orangish dorsolateral stripe at the sacral region (Fig. 1).3,5 This species is frequently mistaken for Lepidoblepharis festae, a larger gecko that inhabits higher elevations but lacks the distinctive white “teardrop” mark on the face.6 Males of P. guianensis can be distinguished from females by their smaller size, more vibrant coloration, and the presence of a pale transverse nape band.1,7

Figure showing variation among individuals of Pseudogonatodes guianensis

Figure 1: Individuals of Pseudogonatodes guianensis from Huella Verde Lodge, Pastaza province, Ecuador.

Natural history: Pseudogonatodes guianensis is a miniaturized gecko adapted to living in the leaf-litter of the Amazon rainforest.3,4 Despite having high population densities, these tiny creatures often escape notice due to their camouflage and diminutive size. During the day, Amazon Pygmy Geckos are typically active amid the shaded leaf-litter on the forest floor, where surface temperatures range from 23.5 to 29.1 °C.18 At night, they seek refuge under decaying logs, rocks, fallen palm leaves, or leaf piles, although some have been observed sleeping on leaves as high as 60 cm above the ground.1,9 Their diet comprises roaches, spiders, sow bugs, springtails, beetle larvae, termites, and small orthopterans.310 In the presence of a disturbance, Pygmy Forest-Geckos will jump from leaf to leaf, ultimately seeking refuge under leaf-litter.8,9 If captured, they can readily shed the tail as well as portions of their skin.4 Females lay clutches of a single egg at regular intervals throughout the year.1,11

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..12 Pseudogonatodes guianensis is included in this category because it is a common and widely distributed species believed to have large and stable populations facing no major immediate extinction threats.12 Additionally, P. guianensis is found in dozens of national parks and reserves and occurs over areas that have not been heavily affected by deforestation. It is estimated that a substantial portion, approximately 61%, of the species’ potential distribution in Brazil is protected.13

Distribution: Pseudogonatodes guianensis is native to the Amazon basin of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador (Fig. 2), French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, Peru, and Venezuela.

Distribution of Pseudogonatodes guianensis in Ecuador

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

Etymology: The generic name Pseudogonatodes comes from the Greek words pseudo (=false), gonatos (=node), and odes (=resembling).14 It probably refers to the fact that these geckos are similar to those of the genus Gonatodes.15 The specific epithet guianensis refers to the type locality: Guyana.

See it in the wild: Amazon Pygmy Geckos are virtually guaranteed sightings within their distribution range in Ecuador, especially in the terra-firme forests of Yasuní National Park, Cuyabeno Reserve, and Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve. These elusive lizards can be readily observed by carefully scanning shaded leaf-litter along forest trails on sunny days.

Special thanks to John Sullivan for symbolically adopting the Amazon Pygmy Gecko and helping bring the Reptiles of Ecuador book project to life.

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Author: Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador.

Photographer: Jose VieirabAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,cAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A (2024) Amazon Pygmy Gecko (Pseudogonatodes guianensis). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/MFCS3083

Literature cited:

  1. Avila-Pires TCS (1995) Lizards of Brazilian Amazonia (Reptilia: Squamata). Zoologische Verhandelingen 299: 1–706.
  2. Peters JA, Donoso-Barros R (1970) Catalogue of the Neotropical Squamata: part II, lizards and amphisbaenians. Bulletin of the United States National Museum, Washington, D.C., 293 pp.
  3. Duellman WE (1978) The biology of an equatorial herpetofauna in Amazonian Ecuador. Publications of the Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas 65: 1–352.
  4. Hoogmoed MS (1973) Notes on the herpetofauna of Surinam. IV. The lizards and amphisbaenians of Surinam. Biogeographica 4: 1–419.
  5. Duellman WE (2005) Cusco amazónico: the lives of amphibians and reptiles in an Amazonian rainforest. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 433 pp.
  6. Peracca MG (1897) Viaggio del Dr. Enrico Festa nell'Ecuador e regioni vicine. Bolletino dei Musei di Zoologia ed Anatomia Comparata della Università di Torino 12: 1–20. DOI: 10.5962/bhl.part.4563
  7. Dixon JR, Soini P (1986) The reptiles of the upper Amazon Basin, Iquitos region, Peru. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, 154 pp.
  8. Vitt LJ, De la Torre S (1996) A research guide to the lizards of Cuyabeno. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Quito, 165 pp.
  9. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  10. Vitt LJ, Sartorius SS, Ávila-Pires TCS, Zani PA, Espósito MC (2005) Small in a big world: Ecology of leaf-litter geckos in new world tropical forests. Herpetological Monographs 19: 137–152. DOI: 10.1655/0733-1347(2005)019[0137:SIABWE]2.0.CO;2
  11. Meiri S, Avila L, Bauer AM, Chapple DG, Das I, Doan TM, Doughty P, Ellis R, Grismer L, Kraus F, Morando M, Oliver P, Pincheira-Donoso D, Ribeiro-Junior MA, Shea G, Torres-Carvajal O, Slavenko A, Roll U (2020) The global diversity and distribution of lizard clutch sizes. Global Ecology and Biogeography 29: 1515–1530. DOI:
  12. Calderón M, Cisneros-Heredia DF, Avila-Pires TCS, Perez P (2019) Pseudogonatodes guianensis. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-3.RLTS.T44579491A44579494.en
  13. 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
  14. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington D.C., 882 pp.
  15. Ruthven AG (1915) Description of a new genus and species of lizard of the family Gekkonidae. Occasional Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan 19: 1–3.

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

ColombiaPutumayoPlaya NuevaIaVH & Agencia Nacional de Hidrocarburos 2022
ColombiaPutumayoVereda Islas de CartagenaBorja-Acosta & Ocampo 2021
EcuadorMorona SantiagoRío CusuimeAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorMorona SantiagoVilla AshuaraAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorMorona SantiagoYaupiOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorNapoChontapuntaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorNapoGareno LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoHacienda George KiederleAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorNapoHuaorani LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoHuella Verde LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoJatun Sacha Biological StationHernández-Sánchez 2013
EcuadorNapoNarupaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoPitalala, mesetaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoReserva Río BigaiReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoRío MisahuallíAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorNapoSuchipakari LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoWild SumacoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoYachana ReserveBeirne et al. 2013
EcuadorOrellanaCampo ObeCarvajal-Campos 2018
EcuadorOrellanaIsla de los MonosAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorOrellanaSan José de PayaminoMaynard et al. 2016
EcuadorOrellanaTambocochaCarvajal-Campos 2018
EcuadorOrellanaTiputini Biodiversity Station Cisneros-Heredia 2003
EcuadorOrellanaYasuní Scientific StationReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPastazaFinca HeimatlosiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaJuyuintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaKurintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaMontalvoAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorPastazaMoretecochaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaPiatúaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPastazaPozo DantaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaUNOCAL Base CampRibeiro-Júnior & Amaral 2016
EcuadorSucumbíosAñangu, Puesto de Control (MAE)iNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosBlancaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosBloque 27DHMECN 8340; examined
EcuadorSucumbíosBorboroéDHMECN 4083; examined
EcuadorSucumbíosEstación PUCE CuyabenoVitt & de la Torre 1996
EcuadorSucumbíosGüeppicilloYánez-Muñoz & Venegas 2008
EcuadorSucumbíosLimocochaAvila-Pires & Hoogmoed 2000
EcuadorSucumbíosLumbaqui, 5 km E ofDueñas and Báez 2021
EcuadorSucumbíosPuerto LibreAvila-Pires & Hoogmoed 2000
EcuadorSucumbíosRío ChamangaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosRío NapoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosSani LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta Cecilia Avila-Pires & Hoogmoed 2000
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta ElenaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosTerritorio Cofán DurenoYánez-Muñoz & Chimbo 2007
PeruAmazonasCaterpizaAvila-Pires & Hoogmoed 2000
PeruAmazonasHuampamiAvila-Pires & Hoogmoed 2000
PeruAmazonasSan Antonio, Río CenepaAvila-Pires & Hoogmoed 2000
PeruAmazonasShiringaAvila-Pires & Hoogmoed 2000