Rediscovery of Pinocchio Lizard in Ecuador

With the ongoing issue of habitat destruction in Ecuador and various animal species facing extinction, conservationists are celebrating the fact that a lizard once thought to be extinct has been rediscovered in the cloud forests. One look at the Pinocchio lizard (Anolis proboscis) explains where this little reptile got its name. The male of the species has a long protrusion on the end of its nose, making one think of the fairytale wooden puppet Pinocchio, whose nose grew longer each time he told a lie.

The lizard’s protrusion, or horn, may look as though it is rigid, but researchers have found that it is relatively flexible. It appears that the lizard’s ‘nose’ serves no purpose, except perhaps to attract a mate, seeing as only the males have this feature. Its green, brown and yellowish coloring offers the perfect camouflage and Pinocchio lizards are seldom seen during the day. At night, however, they stretch out on the end of branches to sleep and their coloring changes to a creamy white, making them easier to spot.

The effectiveness of the Pinocchio lizard’s camouflage is evident by the fact that it remained undetected for the three years researcher Alejandro Arteaga and his colleagues were exploring the area of Mindo, a rural region north of Quito, gathering information for a book called The Amphibians and Reptiles of Mindo. In an interview with LiveScience’s Our Amazing Planet, Arteaga noted that one of his colleagues came across a male Pinocchio lizard in January and the research team kept it overnight in order to take photos of it in its natural habitat in the morning.

According to global environment group, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Pinocchio anoles (lizards) have one of the smallest habitat ranges in the world and they are considered to be an endangered species. The sighting of the Pinocchio lizard highlights the fact that natural areas need to be conserved as one never knows what is waiting to be discovered – or rediscovered.