Top 10 most bizarre amphibians and reptiles found in Ecuador

Author. Alejandro Arteaga.

Published. January 2019.

They look like aliens, but they are very much real, and they have been captured on camera. This is our collection of the most bizarre-looking amphibians and reptiles known to occur in Ecuador.

10. Helmeted Brooding-Frog (Hemiphractus scutatus). It lives hidden in the leaf litter of the Amazon rainforest, and the females carry their eggs attached to their backs. These later hatch as miniature versions of the adults. No tadpoles at all!

Hemiphractus scutatus backriding eggs

Female of a Helmeted Brooding-Frog (Hemiphractus scutatus) carrying eggs. Photo by Jose Vieira.

9. Yellow-headed Thread-Snake (Epictia subcrotilla). It is smaller than most earthworms, and is often confused with one, but it has vertebrae and a skull.

Small Epictia subcrotilla being handheld

Fully-grown Yellow-headed Thread-Snake (Epictia subcrotilla). Photo by Alejandro Arteaga.

Close-up shot of an Epictia subcrotilla

Yellow-headed Thread-Snake (Epictia subcrotilla). Photo by Jose Vieira.

8. Marine Iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus). This inhabitant of the Galapagos Islands is the only marine lizard in the planet, spending nearly 5% of a 24 h day in the water, grazing seaweed of the surface of rocks.

Amblyrhynchus cristatus showing its dorsal crest

Marine Iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus). Photo by Alejandro Arteaga.

7. Amazon Horned-Frog (Ceratophrys cornuta). The mouth of this frog makes up nearly 50% of its body... and for a good reason. This species seizes almost any moving being that passes in front of it, even mice and snakes!

Wide angle shot of Ceratophrys cornuta

Amazon Horned-Frog (Ceratophrys cornuta). Photo by Alejandro Arteaga.

6. Northern Eyelash-Boa (Trachyboa boulengeri). It looks like a little dragon, moves like a slug, it is totally harmless, and feeds on fish and tadpoles, which it embraces and swallows whole.

Trachyboa boulengeri coiled in defensive pose

Northern Eyelash-Boa (Trachyboa boulengeri) coiled in defense posture. Photo by Alejandro Arteaga.

Trachyboa boulengeri coiled in defensive pose

Northern Eyelash-Boa (Trachyboa boulengeri) up close. Photo by Frank Pichardo.

5. Pinocchio Anole (Anolis proboscis). It is one of Ecuador’s most imperiled reptile species. It was thought to be extinct for nearly 50 years, and still, after its "rediscovery" in 2005, it remains hard to find. It is restricted to a cloudforest area of less than 500 km2 around the town of Mindo in Ecuador. The males have an elongated rostral appendage used for communication.

Anolis proboscis showing its pinocchio-like nose

Male of Pinocchio Anole (Anolis proboscis). Photo by Alejandro Arteaga.

4. Yellow-blotched Glassfrog (Hyalinobatrachium aureoguttatum). This inhabitant of the Choco rainforest is regarded as the most translucent of all amphibians. Its heart, lungs, intestines, bones, and vascular system can bee seen clearly by looking at the frog from below.

Ventral shot of Hyalinobatrachium aureoguttatum showing eggs, intestines, and heart

Female of a Yellow-bloteched Glassfrog (Hyalinobatrachium aureoguttatum) showing developing egg mass. Photo by Lucas Bustamante.

3. Surinam Toad (Pipa pipa). This remarkable frog is flat, looks like a leaf, and it lives camouflaged among the leaf litter in ponds in the Amazon rainforest. The females carry their eggs embedded in the skin of their backs.

Pipa pipa floating in the water

Surinam Toad (Pipa pipa) floating in a tank. Photo by Alejandro Arteaga.

2. Giant Caecilian (Caecilia pachynema). Yes, it does not look so friendly. Caecilians are legless amphibians that spend most of their lives buried underground, and often come to the surface during torrential rainfall in tropical jungles. They are voracious predators of earthworms, insect larvae, and even mice!

Close up shot of the mouth of Caecilia pachynema, showing its teeth

Museum specimen of a Giant Caecilian (Caecilia pachynema) showing its teeth. Photo by Alejandro Arteaga.

1. Matamata (Chelus fimbriatus). Yes, that's a turtle, and that snorkel between its eyes is its nose. This heavily camouflaged species lives among leaf litter in muddy ponds in the Amazon rainforest.

Close up shot of the face of Chelus fimbriatus

Smiling Matamata (Chelus fimbriatus). Photo by Sebastián Di Doménico.

Want to see these animals in the field? Join our crew in Ecuador next May.

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