Pinzón Leaf-toed Gecko

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Phyllodactylidae | Phyllodactylus duncanensis

Spanish common name. Geco de Pinzón, salamanquesa de Pinzón.

Recognition. ♂♂ 7.6 cm ♀♀ 9.5 cm. Geckos are easily recognized among lizards by their nocturnal habits and vertical pupils. The Pinzón Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus duncanensis) is the only gecko occurring on Pinzón Island.

Natural history. Frequent along the coastline, but rare in the highlands. Phyllodactylus duncanensis is a nocturnal gecko that is most active just after sunset.1 Pinzón Leaf-toed Geckos are terrestrial and forage on soil and rocky outcrops in dry shrubland and dry grassland areas.1 During daytime, the geckos seek refuge under lava blocks.1 When threatened, individuals of P. duncanensis flee into crevices. If captured, they may shed their tail. Pinzón Leaf-toed Geckos are preyed upon by owls and by Pinzón Racers (Pseudalsophis slevini).1,2


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Conservation. Vulnerable. We consider Phyllodactylus duncanensis to be in this category following IUCN criteria3 because the species is restricted to an island of only 18 km2 and, thus, it is prone to be affected by random unpredictable events (like droughts and introduced species) within a short time period. Pinzón Leaf-toed Geckos also faced predation by black rats for nearly 200 years.4 Black rats were eradicated from Pinzón in 2012 and now it is presumed that P. duncanensis lacks major immediate threats of extinction. Pinzón Island is fully protected by the Galápagos National Park.

Distribution. Phyllodactylus duncanensis is endemic to the 18 km2 area of Pinzón Island. Galápagos, Ecuador.

Distribution of Phyllodactylus duncanensis in Ecuador Distribution of Phyllodactylus duncanensis in Pinzón Island

Etymology. The generic name Phyllodactylus, which comes from the Greek words phyllon (meaning “leaf”) and daktylos (meaning “finger”),5 refers to the leaf-shaped fingers in this group of geckos. The specific epithet duncanensis refers to Pinzón, previously known as Duncan Island.6 The island was originally named after Adam Duncan, a British admiral famous for defeating a Dutch fleet on 1797 during the French Revolutionary Wars, an action considered one of the most significant victories in naval history.7

See it in the wild. Pinzón Island is inaccessible to tourism. Researchers and members of the Galápagos National Park may visit the habitat of Phyllodactylus duncanensis, but only in the context of a scientific expedition or a conservation maneuver.

Authors. Alejandro Arteaga and Juan M Guayasamin.

Academic reviewers. Cruz Márquez.

Photographers. Jose Vieira.

How to cite? Arteaga A, Guayasamin JM (2019) Phyllodactylus duncanensis. In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Guayasamin JM (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador. Available from: www.tropicalherping.com

Literature cited.

Galapagos Conservancy logoThis species account of the Pinzón Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus duncanensis) is available for free online thanks to the support of Galapagos Conservancy.

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1. Tropical Herping field notes.

2. Washington Tapia, unpublished data.

3. IUCN (2001) IUCN Red List categories and criteria: Version 3.1. IUCN Species Survival Commission, Gland and Cambridge, 30 pp.

4. Clark DA (1981) Foraging patterns of black rats across a desert-montane forest gradient in the Galápagos Islands. Biotropica 13: 182–194.

5. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington, 882 pp.

6. Van Denburgh J (1912) Expedition of the California Academy of Sciences to the Galápagos Islands, 1905-1906. VI. The geckos of the Galápagos Archipelago. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 1: 405–430.

7. Laughton JK (1888) Duncan, Adam. In: Leslie S (Ed) Dictionary of national biography. Smith, Elder, and Co., London, 159–161.