Coastal Leaf-toed Gecko

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Phyllodactylidae | Phyllodactylus reissii

English common names: Coastal Leaf-toed Gecko, Peter's Leaf-toed Gecko.

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

Recognition: ♂♂ 17.9 cm ♀♀ 17.4 cm. Geckos are easily distinguishable from other lizards by their nocturnal habits and vertical pupils. The Coastal Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus reissii) can be separated 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 scales on the tail. In Ecuador, the most similar species that can be found co-occurring with P. reissii are P. galapagensis, P. kofordi, P. pumilus, and P. simpsoni, all of which are smaller in body size and have dorsums more densely packed with tubercles.

Natural history: Extremely common throughout its area of distribution. In Galápagos, only in human-modified environments. Phyllodactylus reissii is a nocturnal gecko inhabiting dry shrublands and deciduous to semideciduous forests.1,2 It also colonizes crops, human settlements, and old boats stranded on the beach.1,2 At night, especially between 21:00 and 22:00,3 Coastal Leaf-toed Geckos forage at ground level or on rocks, boulders, cacti, and tree trunks up to 5 m above the ground.1,2 In artificial environments, the geckos are active on fence posts, walls, and ceilings,1 usually close to electric lights.4

By daytime, Coastal Leaf-toed Geckos seek refuge in crevices, holes, or under any object that offers protection from predators and adverse temperatures.1 When exposed in their daytime retreat, individuals of Phyllodactylus reissii moves rapidly to another dark retreat.1 As a distraction for potential predators, geckos of this species are capable of shedding off their tail.5

Females of the Coastal Leaf-toed Gecko breed throughout the year6 and lay two eggs per clutch under rotting debris at the base of trees, in leaf litter, or in rotting stumps and cacti.1 Adults feed on almost any arthropod smaller than 25 mm, including beetles, cockroaches, moths, butterflies, grasshoppers, spiders, pseudoscorpions, and hemipterans.7

Conservation: Least Concern.8 Phyllodactylus reissii is listed in this category because this species is widely distributed, thrives in human-modified environments, and (presumably) is not undergoing population declines nor facing major immediate threats of extinction.8 Instead, P. reissii is an invasive species that has been linked to the displacement of native geckos, such as P. galapagensis.9,10

Distribution: Phyllodactylus reissii is native to the dry lowlands of western Ecuador and northwestern Peru. It is introduced in Lima11 and the Galápagos.9,10

Distribution of Phyllodactylus reissii in continental Ecuador Distribution of Phyllodactylus reissii in Galápagos

Etymology: The generic name Phyllodactylus, which comes from the Greek words phyllon (meaning “leaf”) and daktylos (meaning “finger”),12 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.13

See it in the wild: On mainland Ecuador, individuals of Phyllodacytlus reissii can be seen with ~90–100% certainty throughout their distribution. An easy place to see these geckos is the town Puerto López, Manabí province. In Galápagos, Coastal Leaf-toed Geckos can be seen year-round with ~100% certainty on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, and Puerto Villamil. The best time to look for them is just after sunset.

Authors: Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Biodiversity Field Lab, Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador. and Gabriela Aguiar.

Academic reviewers: Cruz Márquez.

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

How to cite? Arteaga A, Aguiar G (2020) Phyllodactylus reissii. 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. 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.
  2. Field notes, Reptiles of Ecuador book project.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Valencia JH, Garzón K (2011) Guía de anfibios y reptiles en ambientes cercanos a las estaciones del OCP. Fundación Herpetológica Gustavo Orcés, Quito, 268 pp.
  6. Goldberg SR (2007) Notes on reproduction of Peters' Leaf-toed Gecko, Phyllodactylus reissii (Squamata, Gekkonidae), from Peru. Phyllomedusa 6: 147–150.
  7. Jordán JC (2006) Dieta de Phyllodactyllus reissi (Sauria: Gekkonidae) en la Zona Reservada de Tumbes, Perú. Revista Peruana de Biología 13: 121–123.
  8. Perez J, Venegas P (2016) Phyllodactylus reissii. The IUCN red list of threatened species. Available from: www.iucnredlist.org
  9. Hoogmoed MS (1989) Introduced geckos in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, with remarks on other areas. Noticias de Galápagos 47: 12–16.
  10. Olmedo J, Cayot L (1994) Introduced geckos in the towns of Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal and Isabela. Noticias de Galápagos 53: 7–12.
  11. Tello G (1998) Lagartijas del departamento de Lima, Perú. Biotempo 3: 59–63.
  12. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington, 882 pp.
  13. Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M (2011) The eponym dictionary of reptiles. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 296 pp.