River Leaf-toed Gecko

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Phyllodactylidae | Phyllodactylus leoni

Spanish common name: Geco de río.

Recognition: ♂♂ 11.4 cm ♀♀ 10.9 cm. Phyllodactylus leoni is the only gecko in its area of distribution having a tubercular dorsum. Another species, P. reissii, might also occur in the area, but this is a larger gecko with a dorsum less densely packed with enlarged tubercles.

Natural history: Extremely common. Phyllodactylus leoni is a nocturnal and terrestrial gecko inhabiting dry montane shrublands.12 During dry clear nights, P. leoni forages at ground level or on rocks and boulders up to 2.2 m above the ground.1 By daytime, geckos of this species seek refuge under rocks or in crevices and bromeliads.12 Females of the River Leaf-toed Gecko lay one or two eggs per clutch in communal nesting sites, usually under rocks.2 As a defense mechanism, members of this gecko species are capable of shedding their tails.

Conservation: Vulnerable.3 Phyllodactylus leoni was originally listed in this category because it was known only from a single rocky outcrop considered to be under the threat of destruction by quarrying. Now, the species is know from five localities that are nevertheless not protected and facing various threats including displacement by invasive geckos and predation by housecats.1

Distribution: Endemic to the upper watershed of the Jubones river in Ecuador.

Distribution of Phyllodactylus leoni in Ecuador

Etymology: The generic name Phyllodactylus, which comes from the Greek words phyllon (meaning “leaf”) and daktylos (meaning “finger”),4 refers to the leaf-shaped fingers characteristic of this group of geckos. The specific epithet leoni is a reference to the type locality, the León river, a tributary of the Jubones river.2

See it in the wild: In Ecuador, Phyllodacytlus leoni can be seen with ~90–100% certainty at the old bridge over the León river, Azuay province. The best time to look for this species is just after sunset.

Authors: Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Biodiversity Field Lab, Khamai Biotech, Quito, Ecuador.

Photographers: Jose VieiraaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,bAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador. and Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A (2020) Phyllodactylus leoni. In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J, Guayasamin JM (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: www.reptilesofecuador.com

Literature cited:

  1. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  2. Torres-Carvajal O, Carvajal-Campos A, Barnes C W, Nicholls G, Pozo-Andrade M J (2013) A new Andean species of leaf-toed gecko (Phyllodactylidae: Phyllodactylus) from Ecuador. Journal of Herpetology 47: 384–390.
  3. Cisneros-Heredia DF, Yánez-Muñoz M (2017) Phyllodactylus leoni. The IUCN red list of threatened species. Available from: www.iucnredlist.org
  4. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington, 882 pp.