Published March 20, 2018. Updated January 5, 2024. Open access.

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Southern Turniptail Gecko (Thecadactylus solimoensis)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Phyllodactylidae | Thecadactylus solimoensis

English common name: Southern Turniptail Gecko.

Spanish common names: Colabarril del sur, salamanquesa gigante oriental.

Recognition: ♂♂ 21.5 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=10.8 cm. ♀♀ 21.7 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=11.2 cm..1,2 Thecadactylus solimoensis is the largest and most robust gecko in Ecuador. In the Amazonian provinces, it is the only one having webbed digits. These characteristics, coupled with the absence of moveable eyelids, the presence of a vertically elliptical pupil, and the small granular dorsal scales (Fig. 1), will readily differentiate this species from any other Amazonian lizard in Ecuador.13 The introduced gekkonids Hemidactylus frenatus and Hemidactylus mabouia are smaller in body size and have unwebbed fingers.

Figure showing variation among individuals of Thecadactylus solimoensis

Figure 1: Individuals of Thecadactylus solimoensis: Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve, Napo province, Ecuador (); Palmarí Reserve, Amazonas state, Brazil (); Tamandúa Reserve, Pastaza province, Ecuador (); Huella Verde Lodge, Pastaza province, Ecuador (). sa=subadult, j=juvenile.

Natural history: Thecadactylus solimoensis is a nocturnal gecko that inhabits pristine to moderately disturbed rainforest, which may be terra-firme or seasonally flooded.13 The species is also present in plantations and human settlements.15 At night, Southern Turniptails are active on logs, banana plants, or on tree trunks up to 36 m above the ground.17 In human settlements, they colonize walls and rooftops usually close to electric lights.6 By day, these geckos remain hidden in crevices, arboreal bromeliads, and under bark.5,8 Interactions between individuals include producing guttural sounds, tremulous waving of the tail, and headlong fights.9 When disturbed, their usual response is to move to the opposite side of tree trunk or to flee into crevices.5 Other defense mechanisms include parachuting and shedding off the tail.7 The shedding of the tail implies losing a source of energy storage,9 but, when regenerated, the new tail is thicker than the original tail. Thecadactylus solimoensis is an ambush predator5 that feeds on a variety of invertebrates incluiding roaches, grasshoppers, crickets, moths, beetles, ants, spiders, scorpions, and snails.2,5,10,11 There are recorded instances of predation on members of this species, including by bats, snakes (Corallus batesii, Oxybelis fulgidus, and Bothrops bilineatus), and owls.6,1214 Clutches consist of a single egg2,9 laid under the bark of trees.5

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..15 Thecadactylus solimoensis is listed in this category because the species is widely distributed, survives in human-modified environments, and is considered to be undergoing no obvious population declines nor facing major immediate threats of extinction.

Distribution: Thecadactylus solimoensis is native to the western Amazon basin of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador (Fig. 2), and Peru.

Distribution of Thecadactylus solimoensis in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Thecadactylus solimoensis in Ecuador. The star corresponds to the type locality: Cuyabeno, Sucumbíos province. See Appendix 1 for a complete list of the presence localities included in the map.

Etymology: The generic name Thecadactylus comes from the Greek words theke (=envelope) and daktylos (=finger),16 and refers to the skin-covered claws. The specific epithet solimoensis refers to the Solimões River, which drains much of the area in which the species occurs.3

See it in the wild: In Ecuador, Thecadactylus solimoensis is considered a locally abudant species throughout the Amazonian lowlands of Ecuador. For example, these geckos are guaranteed sightings on buildings and other man-made structures at Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve and Tiputini Biodiversity Station.

Special thanks to Billy Sveen for symbolically adopting the Southern Turniptail Gecko and helping bring the Reptiles of Ecuador book project to life.

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Authors: Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador. and Gabriela AguiarbIndependent researcher, Quito, Ecuador.

Photographers: Jose Vieira,cAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,dAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador. and Sebastián Di Doménico,eAffiliation: Keeping Nature, Bogotá, Colombia. and Amanda QuezadacAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A, Aguiar G (2024) Southern Turniptail Gecko (Thecadactylus solimoensis). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/MQIM3901

Literature cited:

  1. Duellman WE (1978) The biology of an equatorial herpetofauna in Amazonian Ecuador. Miscellaneous Publications of the Museum of Natural History University of Kansas 65: 1–352.
  2. Duellman WE (2005) Cusco Amazónico: The lives of amphibians and reptiles in an Amazonian rainforest. Comstock Publishing Associates, London, 433 pp.
  3. Bergmann PJ, Russell AP (2007) Systematics and biogeography of the widespread Neotropical gekkonid genus Thecadactylus (Squamata), with the description of a new cryptic species. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 149: 339–370. DOI: 10.1111/j.1096-3642.2007.00251.x
  4. Dixon JR, Soini P (1986) The reptiles of the upper Amazon Basin, Iquitos region, Peru. Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, 154 pp.
  5. Vitt LJ and De La Torre S (1996) A research guide to the lizards of Cuyabeno. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Quito, 165 pp.
  6. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  7. Pianka ER, Vitt LJ (2003) Lizards: Windows to the evolution of diversity. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 333 pp.
  8. McCracken SF, Forstner MRJ (2014) Herpetofaunal community of a high canopy tank bromeliad (Aechmea zebrina) in the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve of Amazonian Ecuador, with comments on the use of “arboreal” in the herpetological literature. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 8: 65–75.
  9. Vitt LJ, Zani PA (1997) Ecology of the nocturnal lizard Thecadactylus rapicauda (Sauria: Gekkonidae) in the Amazon region. Herpetologica 53: 165–179.
  10. Jordán JC, Suárez JS, Sánchez L (2011) Notas sobre la ecología de Thecadactylus solimoensis (Squamata, Phyllodactylidae) de la Amazonía peruana. Revista Peruana de Biología 18: 257–260.
  11. Martins M (1991) The lizards of Balbina, Central Amazonia, Brazil: a qualitative analysis of resource utilization. Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment 26: 179–190.
  12. Meede U (1984) Herpetologische studien uber Echsen (Sauria) in einem begrenzten gebiet des Tropischen Regenwaldes in Peru: morphologische kriterien, autokologie und zoogeographie. Arten-liste der Reptilien im untersuchungsgebiet. PhD thesis, Hamburg, Germany: Universitat Hamburg.
  13. Venegas PJ, Chávez-Arribasplata JC, Almora E, Grilli P, Duran V (2019) New observations on diet of the South American two-striped forest-pitviper Bothrops bilineatus smaragdinus (Hoge, 1966). Arten-liste der Reptilien im untersuchungsgebiet. PhD thesis, Hamburg, Germany: Universitat Hamburg.
  14. Daza JD, Price LB, Schalk CM, Bauer AM, Borman AR, Peterhans JK (2017) Predation on Southern Turnip-tailed geckos (Thecadactylus solimoensis) by a Spectacled Owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata). Cuadernos de Herpetología 31: 37–39.
  15. Avila-Pires TCS, Caicedo J, Cisneros-Heredia DF, Gutiérrez-Cárdenas P, Perez P, Rivas G (2019) Thecadactylus solimoensis. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-2.RLTS.T190507A44957121.en
  16. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington, 882 pp.

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

ColombiaCaquetáEscombrera de FlorenciaiNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaCaquetáReserva Doña BlancaiNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaCaquetáReserva Natural El ArrulloiNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaCaquetáVereda La GallinetaiNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaPutumayoCentro Experimental AmazónicoBetancourth-Cundar & Gutiérrez-Zamora 2010
ColombiaPutumayoRío GuamuésKU 140391; VertNet
ColombiaPutumayoVereda La JollaiNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaPutumayoVereda La UnióniNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaPutumayoVereda Pueblo ViejoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoCusuimeOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorMorona SantiagoEstación Biológica WisuiChaparro et al. 2011
EcuadorMorona SantiagoLogroñoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoMacumaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoMetsankimiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoPankintsPazmiño-Otamendi & Torres-Carvajal 2018
EcuadorMorona SantiagoRancho QuemadoMZUA.Re.0202; examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoTaishaUSNM 204295; VertNet
EcuadorNapoGarenoReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorNapoHuaorani LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorNapoJatun Sacha Biological ReserveReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorNapoSuchipakariReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorNapoTenaPhoto by Tristan Schramen
EcuadorNapoYachana ReserveWhitworth & Beirne 2011
EcuadorOrellanaAeropuerto de TiputiniiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaCocaMHNG 2226.033; collection database
EcuadorOrellanaConcepciónUSNM 204290; VertNet
EcuadorOrellanaLoretoUSNM 204287; VertNet
EcuadorOrellanaNenkepareReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorOrellanaOnkone GarePazmiño-Otamendi & Torres-Carvajal 2018
EcuadorOrellanaRío Bigal Biological ReserveGarcía et al. 2021
EcuadorOrellanaRío NashiñoPazmiño-Otamendi & Torres-Carvajal 2018
EcuadorOrellanaRío YasuníiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaRío Yasuní, near Lake JatuncochaReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorOrellanaSan José de PayaminoMaynard et al. 2017
EcuadorOrellanaShiripuno LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorOrellanaTaracoaÁvila Pires 1995
EcuadorOrellanaTiputini Biodiversity StationCisneros-Heredia 2003
EcuadorOrellanaYarina LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorOrellanaYasuní Scientific StationReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorPastazaAchuar LodgeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaCabeceras del BobonazaUSNM 204284; VertNet
EcuadorPastazaChichirotaUSNM 204281; VertNet
EcuadorPastazaConamboOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaFinca HeimatlosiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaGeyepareiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaJuyuintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaKapawi LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorPastazaKukunkiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaKurintzaOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaMisiónAlmendáriz 1987
EcuadorPastazaMontalvoOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaRío BufeoOrtega-Andrade 2010
EcuadorPastazaRío ShionayacuUSNM 204285; VertNet
EcuadorPastazaTamandúaReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorPastazaUNOCAL Base CampUSNM 321058; VertNet
EcuadorSucumbíosDurenoOnline multimedia
EcuadorSucumbíosEstación PUCE en Cuyabeno*Bergmann & Russell 2007
EcuadorSucumbíosGarzacochaReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorSucumbíosGüeppicilloYánez-Muñoz & Venegas 2008
EcuadorSucumbíosLa Selva LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorSucumbíosLago AgrioDuellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosLimoncochaUIMNH 54545; collection database
EcuadorSucumbíosMargin of Zábalo riverDaza et al. 2017
EcuadorSucumbíosNapo Wildlife CenterReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorSucumbíosPlayas del CuyabenoUIMNH 91671; collection database
EcuadorSucumbíosPuente sobre el Río CuyabenoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosSábalo VillageReptiles of Ecuador book
EcuadorSucumbíosSacha LodgeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosSan Pablo de KantesiyaAvila-Pires 1995
EcuadorSucumbíosSan Pedro de los CofanesiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosSani LodgeThomas et al. 2020
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta CeciliaDuellman 1978
EcuadorSucumbíosSanta ElenaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosShushufindiPhoto by Fausto Cornejo
EcuadorSucumbíosTerritorio Cofán DurenoYánez-Muñoz & Chimbo 2007
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeGuayzimiiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeYantzazaPazmiño-Otamendi & Torres-Carvajal 2018
PeruAmazonasAguaruna VillageMVZ 163043; VertNet
PeruAmazonasCaterpizaMVZ 174998, VertNet
PeruAmazonasPuerto GalileaUSNM 568704; VertNet
PeruLoretoCerro de KampankisCatenazzi & Venegas 2016
PeruLoretoLoboyacuJordán et al. 2011
PeruLoretoMoroponTCWC 41199; VertNet
PeruLoretoSan JacintoKU 222144; VertNet
PeruSan MartínBellavistaMCZ 17695; VertNet