Coral Scorpion Lizard
Photo by Arthur Morris
Known by several common names including the Rainbow Galliwasp and Red-bellied Galliwasp, the Coral Scorpion Lizard is a secretive, diurnal lizard of the forest floor of lowland rainforests. This robust lizard is rather skink-like with a shiny, streamlined appearance due to the presence of osteoderms (boney deposits) under its scales. It has a long, cylindrical body and tail, relatively small but complete limbs and a unique color pattern with bright orange to red color on the belly, flanks and head. It has a robust head and powerful jaws, and is thought to be a specialized predator of land crabs. Adults reach up to 53 cm in length.
Like many other lizards of Panama, this secretive lizard forages in the leaf litter of the forest, floor, and is seldom seen. It is quick to flee when detected or disturbed. If lucky to get a good look, its colors are striking; due to its bright coloration, it is often thought by locals to be venomous, and occasionally thought to resemble coral snakes. Unfortunately for this reason, this harmless lizard occasionally falls victim to being killed by farmers and land owners.
The Coral Scorpion Lizard is a member of the family Anguidae, a family of lizards that includes such oddities as the alligator lizards, galliwasps, slow worms, glass lizards and legless lizards. There are 19 species in the genus Diploglossus, most found in the Caribbean. The Coral Scorpion Lizard is found from southern Nicaragua to western Ecuador, and is found on both slopes in Panama. This uncommon lizard was found near the Canopy Adventure in August 2009 when Arthur Morris came to the Canopy Lodge with a group of 10 photographers to conduct a photographic workshop. Sightings around the lodges are few but we hope to encounter this beautiful lizard and other lizards of Panama during our Herpetology at the Isthmus tour!