Published May 30, 2019. Updated January 2, 2024. Open access. Peer-reviewed.

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Coastal Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus reissii)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Phyllodactylidae | Phyllodactylus reissii

English common names: Coastal Leaf-toed Gecko, Peters’ Leaf-toed Gecko.

Spanish common names: Geco común de la costa, salamanquesa común de la costa, jañape.

Recognition: ♂♂ 17.9 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=7.5 cm. ♀♀ 17.4 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=7.3 cm..1 Phyllodactylus reissii can be differentiated from most other geckos in Ecuador based on its large body size, dorsum with spaced enlarged scales arranged in parallel rows, and lack of enlarged tubercles on the tail (Fig. 1).2,3 The most similar co-occurring species in Ecuador are P. galapagensis, P. kofordi, P. pumilus, and P. simpsoni.2 All of these are smaller geckos having densely packed tubercles on the dorsal surfaces of the body.3

Figure showing variation among individuals of Phyllodactylus reissii

Figure 1: Individuals of Phyllodactylus reissii from Ecuador: Jorupe Reserve, Loja province (); La Ceiba Reserve, Loja province (); Puerto Ayora, Galápagos province (). j=juvenile.

Natural history: Phyllodactylus reissii is an extremely common gecko that inhabits seasonally dry forests and dry shrubland areas. In Galápagos, it is so far only found in human-modified environments.1,2 The species easily colonizes human settlements and old boats stranded on the beach.2,3 At night, especially between 9:00 and 10:00 pm,4 Coastal Leaf-toed Geckos are active at ground level or on rocks, boulders, cacti, and tree trunks up to 5 m above the ground.15 In artificial environments, they utilize fence posts, walls, and ceilings, usually close to electric lights.2,6 Their diurnal retreats include crevices, holes, or under any object that offers protection from predators and adverse temperatures.1 When exposed in their daytime shelters, individuals move rapidly to another dark retreat.1 As a distraction for potential predators, geckos of this species are capable of shedding the tail.5 Breeding takes place throughout the year.7 Clutches consist of two eggs laid under rotting debris at the base of trees, in leaf-litter, or in rotting stumps and cacti.1 The diet consists of almost any arthropod smaller than 25 mm, including beetles, cockroaches, moths, butterflies, grasshoppers, spiders, pseudoscorpions, and hemipterans.8

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..9 Phyllodactylus reissii is listed in this category because this species is widely distributed, thrives in human-modified environments, and is not undergoing population declines or facing major immediate threats of extinction.9 Instead, P. reissii is an invasive species that has been linked to the displacement of native geckos, such as P. galapagensis.10,11

Distribution: Phyllodactylus reissii is native to the Tumbesian lowlands of western Ecuador and northwestern Perú (Fig. 2). The species has been introduced into Lima12 and the Galápagos (Fig. 3).2.

Distribution of Phyllodactylus reissii in Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Phyllodactylus reissii in Ecuador. The star corresponds to the type locality: Guayaquil. See Appendix 1 for a complete list of the presence localities included in the map.

Distribution of Phyllodactylus reissii in Galápagos

Figure 3: Distribution of Phyllodactylus reissii in Galápagos. See Appendix 1 for a complete list of the presence localities included in the map.

Etymology: The generic name Phyllodactylus comes from the Greek words phyllon (=leaf) and daktylos (=finger),13 and refers to the leaf-shaped fingers characteristic of this group of geckos. The specific epithet reissii honors Carl Reiss, a German living in Ecuador, who collected P. reissii in the 1860s.14

See it in the wild: On mainland Ecuador, Coastal Leaf-toed Geckos can be seen with almost complete certainty throughout their area of distribution. Prime locations for this species include Reserva Cerro Seco and Parque Nacional Machalilla. In Galápagos, the geckos are becoming increasinly abundant in the outskirts of Puerto Ayora, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, and Puerto Villamil.

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

Academic reviewer: Cruz MárquezcAffiliation: University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.

Photographer: Jose VieiradAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,eAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A, Aguiar G (2024) Coastal Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus reissii). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/WBUM6606

Literature cited:

  1. Dixon JR, Huey RB (1970) Systematics of the lizards of the gekkonid genus Phyllodactylus of mainland South America. Los Angeles County Museum Contributions in Science 192: 1–78. DOI: 10.5962/p.241179
  2. Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J, Tapia W, Guayasamin JM (2019) Reptiles of the Galápagos: life on the Enchanted Islands. Tropical Herping, Quito, 208 pp. DOI: 10.47051/AQJU7348
  3. Torres-Carvajal O, Carvajal-Campos A, Barnes CW, Nicholls G, Pozo-Andrade MJ (2013) A new Andean species of Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylidae: Phyllodactylus) from Ecuador. Journal of Herpetology 47: 384–390. DOI: 10.1670/12-017
  4. Jordán JC (2011) Notes on the ecology of Phyllodactylus reissi (Phyllodactylidae: Sauria) in Parque Nacional Cerros de Amotape (Tumbes, Peru). Revista Peruana de Biología 18: 377–380.
  5. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  6. Torres-Carvajal O, Tapia W (2011) First record of the common house gecko Hemidactylus frenatus Schlegel, 1836 and distribution extension of Phyllodactylus reissii Peters, 1862 in the Galápagos. Check List 7: 470–472. DOI: 10.15560/7.4.470
  7. Goldberg SR (2007) Notes on reproduction of Peters’ Leaf-toed Gecko, Phyllodactylus reissii (Squamata, Gekkonidae), from Peru. Phyllomedusa 6: 147–150.
  8. Jordán JC (2006) Dieta de Phyllodactyllus reissi (Sauria: Gekkonidae) en la Zona Reservada de Tumbes, Perú. Revista Peruana de Biología 13: 121–123.
  9. Perez J, Venegas P (2016) Phyllodactylus reissii. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T178356A50867622.en
  10. Hoogmoed MS (1989) Introduced geckos in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, with remarks on other areas. Noticias de Galápagos 47: 12–16.
  11. Olmedo J, Cayot L (1994) Introduced geckos in the towns of Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal and Isabela. Noticias de Galápagos 53: 7–12.
  12. Tello G (1998) Lagartijas del departamento de Lima, Perú. Biotempo 3: 59–63.
  13. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington, 882 pp.
  14. Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M (2011) The eponym dictionary of reptiles. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 296 pp.

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

EcuadorAzuayCuenca, 109 km W ofDixon & Huey 1970
EcuadorAzuaySan Francisco, 4 km E ofDixon & Huey 1970
EcuadorCañarLa TroncalTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorEl OroCascadas de Manuel Garzón-Santomaro et al. 2019
EcuadorEl OroMachalaDixon & Huey 1970
EcuadorEl OroProgreso, 25 km W ofUF 90628; VertNet
EcuadorEl OroReserva Ecológica ArenillasTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorEl OroReserva Militar ArenillasGarzón-Santomaro et al. 2019
EcuadorEl OroSanta RosaDixon & Huey 1970
EcuadorEsmeraldasAtacames, 2 km E ofUF 71934; VertNet
EcuadorEsmeraldasEsmeraldasCarvajal-Campos & Guerra-Correa 2020
EcuadorEsmeraldasPlaya EscondidaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorEsmeraldasSua, beach E ofKU 142668; VertNet
EcuadorEsmeraldasTonchigueReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorGalápagosBaltra airportArteaga et al. 2019
EcuadorGalápagosBellavistaPhillips et al. 2012
EcuadorGalápagosEl ProgresoArteaga et al. 2019
EcuadorGalápagosPuerto AyoraArteaga et al. 2019
EcuadorGalápagosPuerto Baquerizo MorenoJiménez-Uzcátegui 2014
EcuadorGalápagosPuerto Velasco IbarraArteaga et al. 2019
EcuadorGalápagosPuerto VillamilTorres-Carvajal & Tapia 2011
EcuadorGalápagosVía al GarrapateroArteaga et al. 2019
EcuadorGuayas14 km S of the confluence Daule–PeripaUF 71502; VertNet
EcuadorGuayasAncónDixon & Huey 1970
EcuadorGuayasBosque Protector Cerro BlancoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorGuayasCasas ViejasSalvatierra et al. 2010
EcuadorGuayasCerro El MangoCarvajal-Campos & Guerra-Correa 2020
EcuadorGuayasCerro MasvaleTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorGuayasChimboDixon & Huey 1970
EcuadorGuayasEl RincónPhoto by Fausto Siavichay
EcuadorGuayasEstero de AcumbeCuadrado et al. 2020
EcuadorGuayasGuayaquil*Peters 1862
EcuadorGuayasIsla SantayCruz-García et al. 2023
EcuadorGuayasPedro CarboiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasPlayas VillamilDixon & Huey 1970
EcuadorGuayasPlayas, 70 km SW ofMVZ 77218; VertNet
EcuadorGuayasPlayas, 75 km SW ofMVZ 77219; VertNet
EcuadorGuayasPunáDixon & Huey 1970
EcuadorGuayasReserva EngabaoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasRío DauleDixon & Huey 1970
EcuadorLojaBosque Petrificado de PuyangoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorLojaCasangaKU 142671; VertNet
EcuadorLojaCatamayoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorLojaComunidad Bella MaríaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2014
EcuadorLojaLarama, 1.3 km SW ofReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorLojaMacará, 1 km N ofReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorLojaMangahurcoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLojaPindal, 3 km W ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLojaQuebrada El FaiqueTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorLojaReserva JorupeMorales 2013
EcuadorLojaReserva La CeibaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorLojaReserva LaipunaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorLojaRío CasangaDixon & Huey 1970
EcuadorLojaVilla AlgodonalTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorLojaZapallalTorres-Carvajal et al. 2014
EcuadorLojaZapotilloTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorLos RíosBosque Protector Pedro Franco DávilaCruz & Sánchez 2016
EcuadorManabíBahía de CaraquezUSNM 284035; VertNet
EcuadorManabíBosque Protector Cerro SecoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíCabo PasadoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorManabíCrucitaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorManabíEl AromoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2014
EcuadorManabíHostería AlandaluzReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíIsla de la PlataTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorManabíLa BocaPhoto by Lisa Brunetti
EcuadorManabíMantaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2014
EcuadorManabíManta, 6 km E ofDixon & Huey 1970
EcuadorManabíMontecristi, 5 km W ofDixon & Huey 1970
EcuadorManabíPalmar–BalsasTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorManabíParque Nacional MachalillaAlmendariz & Carr 2007
EcuadorManabíPedernalesTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorManabíPicoazáTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorManabíPlaya Los FrailesReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíPlaya TiñosaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2014
EcuadorManabíPortoviejoMCZ 163963; VertNet
EcuadorManabíPuerto CayoTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorManabíPuerto LopezReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíReserva AyampeMorales 2013
EcuadorManabíSan LorenzoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíSan VicenteTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorManabíSanta TeresaTorres-Carvajal et al. 2013
EcuadorSanta ElenaAtahualpa, 2 km W ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSanta ElenaColonche, 6 km SW ofDixon & Huey 1970
EcuadorSanta ElenaPunta CarneroDixon & Huey 1970
EcuadorSanta ElenaSalinasDixon & Huey 1970
EcuadorSanta ElenaSanta Elena, 5 mi N ofUF 39458; VertNet
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeEl PanguiiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeZamoraiNaturalist; photo examined