Published February 5, 2021. Updated November 29, 2023. Open access. Peer-reviewed.

Gallery ❯

Eastern Lightbulb-Lizard (Riama anatoloros)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Gymnophthalmidae | Riama anatoloros

English common name: Eastern Lightbulb-Lizard.

Spanish common name: Lagartija minadora oriental.

Recognition: ♂♂ 16.1 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=6.3 cm. ♀♀ 15.5 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=5.9 cm..13 Lightbulb-lizards are easily distinguishable from other lizards by their fossorial habits and extremities so short that the front and hind limbs cannot reach each other.1,2 The Eastern Lightbulb-Lizard (Riama anatoloros) is the only member of its genus known to occur on the Amazonian slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes below 2000 m above sea level. Other lightbulb lizards that may occur nearby R. anatoloros are R. orcesi, which has light orangish dorsolateral stripes on the anterior portion of the tail, and R. stigmatoral, which is larger in body size and has a darker uniform brownish coloration with distinct yellow to pinkish markings ventrolaterally.2 Adult males differ from females by being larger, having broader heads, and, usually, a bright reddish tail underside (Fig. 1).

Figure showing variation among individuals of Riama anatoloros

Figure 1: Individuals of Riama anatoloros from Cordillera de Guacamayos, Napo province, Ecuador. j=juvenile.

Natural history: Riama anatoloros is a rarely seen fossorial lizard that inhabits old-growth to moderately disturbed cloudforests and lower evergreen montane forests.2 It also occurs in areas containing a mixture of pastures, rural houses, and remnants of native vegetation. Lizards of this species spend most of their lives in tunnels they excavate in areas of soft soil or under rocks, logs, and leaf-litter, but they may also occasionally be seen moving at ground level during the day.3 Females lay clutches of two eggs under moss or in soft soil.3 When dug up or otherwise exposed, individuals of R. anatoloros will quickly flee underground. If captured, they may bite or readily shed the tail. Eastern Lightbulb-Lizards are susceptible to high temperatures, dying if exposed to the sun or even if handled for longer than just a few seconds.3

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..4 Riama anatoloros is proposed to be assigned in this category, instead of Vulnerable,5,6 following IUCN criteria,7 because the species occurs in all major protected areas along the Amazonian slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes (Antisana Ecological Reserve, Cayambe Coca National Park, Llanganates National Park, Podocarpus National Park, Sangay National Park, and Sumaco National Park) and it is distributed over a comparatively wide (~24,178 km2) area that retains the majority (~82%) of its forest cover.8 Therefore, the species is here considered to be facing no major immediate extinction threats.

Distribution: Riama anatoloros is endemic to an area of approximately 24,178 km2 along the Amazonian slopes of the Andes in Ecuador (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Riama anatoloros in Ecuador

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

Etymology: The generic name Riama does not appear to be a reference to any feature of this group of lizards, but a matter of personal taste. John Edward Gray usually selected girl’s names to use on reptiles.912 The specific epithet anatoloros comes from the Greek words anatole (=east) and oros (=mountain), and refers to the distribution of the species.2

See it in the wild: Eastern Lightbulb-Lizards are recorded rarely unless they are actively searched for by raking leaf-litter or by turning over boulders and rotten logs in areas with adequate forest cover. At Narupa Reserve and Sumaco Volcano campsite 1, individuals of this species are found at a rate of about 2–5 per day of sampling.

Acknowledgments: Special thanks to María Jose Quiroz for finding some of the individuals of Riama anatoloros pictured here. This account was published with the support of Secretaría Nacional de Educación Superior Ciencia y Tecnología (programa INEDITA; project: Respuestas a la crisis de biodiversidad: la descripción de especies como herramienta de conservación; No 00110378), Programa de las Naciones Unidas (PNUD), and Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ).

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

Academic reviewer: Jeffrey D CamperbAffiliation: Department of Biology, Francis Marion University, Florence, USA.

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

How to cite? Arteaga A (2023) Eastern Lightbulb-Lizard (Riama anatoloros). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/LMCZ2933

Literature cited:

  1. Doan TM, Castoe TA (2005) Phylogenetic taxonomy of the Cercosaurini (Squamata: Gymnophthalmidae), with new genera for species of Neusticurus and Proctoporus. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 143: 405–416. DOI: 10.1111/j.1096-3642.2005.00145.x
  2. Kizirian DA (1996) A review of Ecuadorian Proctoporus (Squamata: Gymnophthalmidae) with descriptions of nine new species. Herpetological Monographs 10: 85–155. DOI: 10.2307/1466981
  3. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  4. Reyes-Puig C (2015) Un método integrativo para evaluar el estado de conservación de las especies y su aplicación a los reptiles del Ecuador. MSc thesis, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, 73 pp.
  5. Carrillo E, Aldás A, Altamirano M, Ayala F, Cisneros-Heredia DF, Endara A, Márquez C, Morales M, Nogales F, Salvador P, Torres ML, Valencia J, Villamarín F, Yánez-Muñoz M, Zárate P (2005) Lista roja de los reptiles del Ecuador. Fundación Novum Millenium, Quito, 46 pp.
  6. Cisneros-Heredia DF, Muñoz G, Valencia J, Almendáriz A, Brito J (2017) Riama anatoloros. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-2.RLTS.T50950447A50950454.en
  7. IUCN (2001) IUCN Red List categories and criteria: Version 3.1. IUCN Species Survival Commission, Gland and Cambridge, 30 pp.
  8. MAE (2012) Línea base de deforestación del Ecuador continental. Ministerio del Ambiente del Ecuador, Quito, 30 pp.
  9. Gray JE (1831) Description of a new genus of ophisaurean animal, discovered by the late James Hunter in New Holland. Treuttel, Würtz & Co., London, 40 pp.
  10. Gray JE (1831) A synopsis of the species of the class Reptilia. In: Griffith E, Pidgeon E (Eds) The animal kingdom arranged in conformity with its organization. Whittaker, Treacher, & Co., London, 1–110.
  11. Gray JE (1838) Catalogue of the slender-tongued saurians, with descriptions of many new genera and species. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 1: 274–283.
  12. Gray JE (1845) Catalogue of the specimens of lizards in the collection of the British Museum. Trustees of the British Museum, London, 289 pp.

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

EcuadorMorona SantiagoAgua RicaDoan 2003
EcuadorMorona SantiagoCutucúOnline multimedia
EcuadorMorona SantiagoMacasMZUA.RE.0071
EcuadorMorona SantiagoMacas–Riobamba roadiNaturalist
EcuadorMorona SantiagoPlan de MilagroDoan 2003
EcuadorMorona SantiagoReserva Biológica El QuimiBetancourt et al. 2018
EcuadorMorona SantiagoReserva SuritiakThis work
EcuadorMorona SantiagoW slope Cordillera CutucúKizirian 1996
EcuadorNapoCocodrilos, 2 km W ofThis work
EcuadorNapoCocodrilos, 3.6 km W ofThis work
EcuadorNapoGuagua SumacoField notes of Andrew Gluesenkamp
EcuadorNapoReserva NarupaThis work
EcuadorNapoRío AzuelaKizirian 1996
EcuadorNapoSan RafaelKizirian 1996
EcuadorNapoSanta RosaAguirre et al. 2014
EcuadorNapoSumaco Camp 1This work
EcuadorPastazaPiatúaThis work
EcuadorPastazaReserva Privada AnkakuAguirre Peñafiel 2012
EcuadorPastazaTzarentzaThis work
EcuadorSucumbíosLa BonitaSánchez-Pacheco et al. 2012
EcuadorTungurahuaAbitaguaSánchez-Pacheco et al. 2012
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeCabeceras del Río PiuntzaKizirian 1996
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeConcesión ColibríSánchez-Pacheco et al. 2012
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeConcesión Minera El ZarzaAlmendáriz et al. 2014
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeConcesión Mirador ECSAECSA 2018
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeLos EncuentrosSánchez-Pacheco et al. 2012
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeRomerillosSánchez-Pacheco et al. 2012
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeTepuy Las OrquídeasAguirre Peñafiel 2012