Published July 27, 2023. Updated December 2, 2023. Open access. Peer-reviewed.

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Almendáriz’ Microtegu (Selvasaura almendarizae)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Gymnophthalmidae | Selvasaura almendarizae

English common name: Almendáriz’ Microtegu.

Spanish common name: Microtegú de Almendáriz.

Recognition: ♂♂ 11.3 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=4.0 cm..1 Forest Microtegus (genus Selvasaura) can be distinguished from other microteiid lizards by their arboreal habits, rugose dorsal scales, presence of prefrontal scales, and lower palpebral disc transparent and not divided.24 Selvasaura almendarizae further differs from other lizards in its area of distribution by having a light brown dorsum with a dark-bordered cream vertebral stripe (Fig. 1), a pale line from mouth commissure to level of arm insertion, a series of dark-bordered cream ocelli along the flanks, and reddish tail.1

Illustration of an adult male individual of Selvasaura almendarizae

Figure 1: Illustration of an adult male individual of Selvasaura almendarizae.

Natural history: Selvasaura almendarizae is an extremely rare diurnal and arboreal lizard that inhabits pristine rainforests in foothill or mountainous areas.1,5 It also occurs along roadsides and in peri-urban areas.6 Almendáriz’ Microtegus have been seen active during the daytime on leaves at 1 m above the ground or crossing roads, climbing rock walls, and foraging on walls of rural houses.6 Lizards of the genus Selvasaura in general are arboreal, bromelicolous, and like to dwell in the thatch of roofs.3,4

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances.. Selvasaura almendarizae is a recently described species; therefore, its conservation status has not yet been formally evaluated by the IUCN. Here, it is proposed to be included in the LC category because the species is distributed over an area that retains most (~82%) of its forest cover,7 and therefore is believed to be facing no major immediate threats of extinction. Although, S. almendarizae is considered rare, this is probably due to the species’ arboreal habits rather than to actual low population densities. Also, Almendáriz’ Microtegus occur in at least four protected areas: Sumak Kawsay In Situ, Río Bigal Biological Reserve, Wild Sumaco Wildlife Sanctuary, and Centro Ecológico Zanja Arajuno. The most important threat to the long-term survival of the species is habitat destruction primarily due to mining and the expansion of the agricultural frontier.

Distribution: Selvasaura almendarizae is endemic to an area of approximately 18,283 km2 on the Amazonian foothills of the Andes in Ecuador (Fig. 2).

Distribution of Selvasaura almendarizae in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Selvasaura almendarizae in Ecuador. The star corresponds to the type locality: Wild Sumaco Wildlife Sanctuary, Napo province. See Appendix 1 for a complete list of the presence localities included in the map.

Etymology: The generic name Selvasaura is derived from the Spanish noun selva (=forest) and the Greek saura (=lizard).4 It refers to the habitat of these lizards.4 The specific epithet almendarizae honors Ecuadorian herpetologist Ana Almendáriz, former curator of Herpetology at the Museo de Historia Natural Gustavo Orcés, in recognition of her contributions to the herpetology of Ecuador.1

See it in the wild: Species of the genus Selvasaura are among the most rarely encountered lizards in Ecuador and S. almendarizae is no exception. Due to the species’ secretive and arboreal habits, individuals are encountered usually only by accident and no more than once every few years. The area with the greatest number of observations is Wild Sumaco Wildlife Sanctuary, where two individuals have been recorded. Almendáriz’ Microtegus are most often seen in semi-open areas during sunny mornings.

Special thanks to Mauricio Flores for symbolically adopting the Almendáriz’ Microtegu and helping bring the Reptiles of Ecuador book project to life.

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

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

Illustrator: Valentina Nieto Fernández

How to cite? Arteaga A (2023) Almendáriz’ Microtegu (Selvasaura almendarizae). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/QKCP7466

Literature cited:

  1. Torres-Carvajal O, Parra V, Sales Nunes PM, Koch C (2021) A new species of microtegu lizard (Gymnophthalmidae: Cercosaurinae) from Amazonian Ecuador. Journal of Herpetology 55: 385–395. DOI: 10.1670/20-142
  2. Brito-Zapata D, Guayasamin JM, Parra V, Torres-Carvajal O, Reyes-Puig C (2023) A new species of microtegú (Gymnophthalmidae: Cercosaurinae) from the Cordillera del Cóndor, Ecuador. Revista Latinoamericana de Herpetología 6: 17–37. DOI: 10.22201/fc.25942158e.2023.2.575
  3. Echevarría LY, Venegas PJ, García-Ayachi LA, Sales Nunes PM (2021) An elusive new species of gymnophthalmid lizard (Cercosaurinae, Selvasaura) from the Andes of northern Peru. Evolutionary Systematics 5: 177–187. DOI: 10.3897/evolsyst.5.68520
  4. Moravec J, Šmíd J, Štundl J, Lehr E (2018) Systematics of Neotropical microteiid lizards (Gymnophthalmidae, Cercosaurinae), with the description of a new genus and species from the Andean montane forests. ZooKeys 774: 105–139. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.774.25332
  5. García T, Prémel V, Torres-Carvajal O (2021) Reptiles de la Reserva Biológica del Río Bigal, Amazonía del Ecuador. Fundación Ecológica Sumac Muyu, Quito, 94 pp.
  6. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  7. MAE (2012) Línea base de deforestación del Ecuador continental. Ministerio del Ambiente del Ecuador, Quito, 30 pp.

Appendix 1: Locality data used to create the distribution map of Selvasaura almendarizae in Ecuador (Fig. 2). Go to the section on symbols and abbreviations for a list of acronyms used. Asterisk (*) indicates type locality.

EcuadorNapoRío QuijosiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorNapoWild Sumaco LodgeTorres-Carvajal et al. 2021
EcuadorNapoWild Sumaco Wildlife Sanctuary*Torres-Carvajal et al. 2021
EcuadorOrellanaRío Bigal Biological ReserveGarcía et al. 2021
EcuadorPastazaCentro Ecológico Zanja ArajunoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2021
EcuadorPastazaPomonaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaPuyoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2021
EcuadorPastazaSumak Kawsay In SituBentley et al. 2021