New Woodlizard Species Discovered in Ecuador

Commonly referred to as woodlizards, Enyalioides is a genus in the lizard family Hoplocercidae which is endemic to the northern part of South America and Panama. The recent discovery of three new species brings the number of identified species in the genus Enyalioides to fifteen. Two of these species were discovered in Ecuador, with the third being found in Panama.

The Alto Tambo woodlizard was initially identified near the village of Alto Tambo in northwestern Ecuador in 2005. However, due to civil unrest at the time, it was difficult for scientists to access the area to confirm the identification. Although the Alto Tambo woodlizard (Enyalioides altotambo) is similar to a related species which was identified in 1881, it has smoother scales and brown eyes with pupils ringed in gold, as opposed to the red eyes of the other species.

The rough-scaled woodlizard (Enyalioides anisolepis) was found on the lower slopes of the Amazonian Andes cloud-forest in a bio-diverse region that overlaps into Peru. This particular species has a white throat with stud-like scales covering its body and legs. It has been identified in three color variations, being brown, black and green and brownish orange.

The third newly discovered species, the Rothschild’s woodlizard (Enyalioides sophiarothschildae), was found in Peru near tributaries of the Huayllabamba river. This species has a white throat, black and brown body and turquoise and black scales.

Curator of reptiles at the Museo de Zoologia at the Catholic University of Ecuador, Omar Torres-Carvajal, is part of a team that scours the Ecuadorian cloud forests in search of lizards that have not yet been identified. In an interview Torres-Carvajal revealed that making new discoveries is the highlight of his job. During his career, Torres-Carvajal has scientifically identified more than twenty reptiles in South America and anticipates discovering more in the future.

Although scientists have been studying the biodiversity of Ecuador for decades, there is still a lot of unexplored territory, and it is in these areas that new discoveries are being made. Some species may resemble others that have already been discovered and recognized in their own right, but DNA analysis is the deciding factor in identifying separate species as being genetically different. The fact that Ecuador has so many varying habitats, ecosystems and microclimates, means that it is able to support a diverse spectrum of wildlife, making it an absolute treasure trove for researchers and scientists to make new discoveries.