Canopy Lizard
Canopy Lizard

Canopy Lizard
Polychrus gutturosus

Photo by Domiciano Alveo


The Canopy Lizard is a diurnal, arboreal lizard of the lowlands and foothills of Central America and northwestern South America. It can be identified by its extremely long tail (up to three times the length of the rest of its body!), blunt snout, green coloration, and distinct postocular spot or stripe. It sometimes shows transverse striping on its body and tail. It is variable in coloration (Polychrus, Greek, “many colors”) and also has the ability to change its color from bright green to dull brown depending on mood or environmental conditions.

The Canopy Lizard, true to its name, lives in the forest canopy at heights of up to 40 meters. It makes slow and deliberate movements as it climbs and maneuvers in trees and will often remain stationary in one (sometimes awkward or bizarre) position for extended periods of time. It is capable of rapid movements if threatened, however. If disturbed, it may open its mouth and extend its dewlap wide (gutturosus, Latin, “with an enlarged throat”) in a threat display. Canopy Lizards are mostly insectivorous but will also eat leaves, fruits, seeds, and flowers.

The Canopy Lizard is rarely seen and probably frequently overlooked due to its canopy habitat and general unobtrusiveness. Occasionally we spot this interesting lizard basking in the treetops from the Canopy Tower observation deck. The photo below was taken closer to ground level at Canopy Camp Darien.

This species is known by a number of other common names, including Berthold’s Bush Anole, Monkey-tailed Anole, and Forest Iguana, as well as Canopy Lizard—we think the choice is obvious which name to prefer!

Photo by Nando Quiroz.