A Brown Lightbulb Lizard (Riama meleagris) has been found in one of Fundación EcoMinga’s reserves, the first time the beautiful rainbow-sheened reptile has been recorded in a protected area.
The lizard was found by herpetologist Juan Pablo Reyes, Reserve Manager, who had never seen it before as it has only been recorded in two other sites in the Tungurahua province of Ecuador.
Both of these sites have been compromised by fruit and vegetable plantations, the only remaining suitable forest habitat is on slopes too steep for agriculture. So the news that this species’ range reaches into one of EcoMinga’s protected areas is a very good sign for its future.
As is evidenced in Juan’s photos, the Brown Lightbulb Lizard has a rainbow sheen on its scales that can be seen on certain other reptiles such as the Rainbow Boa and Sunbeam Snake. The shimmer is caused by special nanostructures that form thin layers over the brown scales, producing an effect similar to an oil slick on a dark road.
A review on animal iridescence, by the Journal of The Royal Society Interface, theorises that this sheen, combined with dark scales, may add to a reptile’s camouflage and changing colours may confuse potential predators. Other possible functions of reptile iridescence discussed in the review are reducing friction, especially in burrowing species, strengthening scales and repelling water.
EcoMinga is one of WLT's four conservation partners in Ecuador, which protects a large tract of virgin cloud forest within the transition zone between the Andes and the Amazon. The reserve in which the lightbulb lizard was found has been named for the corporate supporter which funded its creation, wildlife holiday specialist Naturetrek.
For regular updates on the flora and fauna of Fundación EcoMinga’s reserves, visit their blog here.