Alejandro Arteaga / Tropical Herping

A rare sight to behold, the elusive Pinocchio lizard was finally spotted after a team of researchers and photographers set on a long quest to find it. Their efforts were rewarded as this is only the third time a specimen of this long-nosed lizard was ever reported in nearly the 60 years since its discovery.

Called the Pinocchio anole (type of lizard), the animal was first discovered in 1953. It was only seen again once  more than 50 years afterwards in 2005, leading many to believe the species was extinct.  Alejandro Arteaga, a co-founder of the educational and ecotourism company Tropical Herping, and colleagues were writing a book called “The Amphibians and Reptiles of Mindo,” a rural region a two-hour drive north of Quito, Ecuador’s capital, and didn’t want to settle with the extinction claim. They wanted a complete illustration for their book, so the team set out to find the lizard.

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Lucas Bustamante / Tropical Herping

Lucas Bustamante / Tropical Herping

Night time is always the best time to go lizard hunting, since that’s when most animals are asleep and their pale colouring makes them inconspicuous while they go about their nocturnal ways.  After many days of stalking, one of Arteaga’s colleagues spotted and captured a Pinocchio anole clinging to a branch over a stream in January. The team then kept it overnight before photographing it in the morning in its natural habitat for their book.

Though definitely not extinct, the Pinocchio anole is by all means endangered, fact attested by its scarce sightings. In fact,  these lizards have been found in only four locations, mostly along a single stretch of road – one of the smallest ranges of any lizard in the world, Arteaga said.

Clearly its name was given thanks to the lizard’s uncanny resemblance to a certain lying wooden puppet. You might be wondering what’s its purpose? From a practical point of view, none – it’s just used to court ladies. Females don’t have long noses, and clearly this is a sexually selected trait – the male with the longest nose is the most attractive to females and thus has the most chances to pass on its genes. The peacock is the most famous co-example of such behaviour fond in nature, only instead of a long nose the peacocks employ marvelously coloured plumage.