Giant Hispaniolan galliwasp (Celestus warreni)

Giant Hispaniolan galliwasp
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Giant Hispaniolan galliwasp fact file

Giant Hispaniolan galliwasp description

GenusCelestus (1)

The giant Hispaniolan galliwasp (Celestus warreni) is a large lizard in the Anguidae family. It has a medium-brown upperside, an orange underside and pale sides marked with clear bars (2).

The male and female giant Hispaniolan galliwasp are similar in appearance, but the male is larger with a wider head. However, this difference is only apparent in mature individuals of a similar age. Due to its head shape and smaller size, the young male resembles the female (3).

Celestus carraui, Diploglossus carraui, Diploglossus warreni.

Giant Hispaniolan galliwasp biology

The giant Hispaniolan galliwasp is very secretive, and is thought to be crepuscular or nocturnal. As it has rarely been recorded, little is known about its biology in the wild, and most information has been documented from captive specimens (3) (4).

The giant Hispaniolan galliwasp is thought to be an active and opportunistic forager that will eat almost anything it encounters (2). It is known to eat small amounts of vegetable matter, but mostly preys on millipedes, centipedes, insects, whip scorpions, spiders and slugs, as well as other lizards (5).
The giant Hispaniolan galliwasp is ovoviviparous, giving birth to live young. Gestation lasts 90 days, with the female giving birth in August to between 8 and 34 young (3). In captivity the giant Hispaniolan galliwasp reaches sexual maturity at around three or four years of age (1).
Male giant Hispaniolan galliwasps are thought to be territorial, as males kept together in captivity tend to fight. Courtship and mating behaviour have been little documented in the wild. In captivity, the male has been observed to hold the female’s neck and back of the head with its mouth during mating (3).
As with many other species of lizard, the giant Hispaniolan galliwasp is able to shed its tail when threatened (3).

Giant Hispaniolan galliwasp range

The giant Hispaniolan galliwasp is endemic to Hispaniola, a Caribbean island split into Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Most of the population can be found in a single location in northern Haiti. The giant Hispaniolan galliwasp may now be largely absent from the northern Dominican Republic (1)


Giant Hispaniolan galliwasp habitat

The giant Hispaniolan galliwasp is typically found in lowland, broadleaf forests that have a moderate supply of moisture (known as mesic forests) (1). It can also live in banana groves and semi-dry woodlands. Thought to be a burrowing species, the giant Hispaniolan galliwasp is normally found among the leaf litter and in top-soil layers, or under stones and fallen trees (1) (3).


Giant Hispaniolan galliwasp status

The giant Hispaniolan galliwasp is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered


Giant Hispaniolan galliwasp threats

Habitat loss, predation and hunting have led to an estimated 80 percent decline in giant Hispaniolan galliwasp population numbers over the last 20 years. One of the main threats to this species is deforestation, mostly due to agricultural activities (1). Lowland, broadleaf forests once accounted for more than half of the vegetation on the island, but almost none now remain intact, and the giant Hispaniolan galliwasp’s habitat is now highly fragmented (1).

Another main threat has been the introduction of mongooses, dogs and cats to the island, which have colonised the area and predate upon the giant Hispaniolan galliwasp. Local human populations also hunt this species, mistakenly believing it to be venomous (1).

Giant Hispaniolan galliwasp conservation

General Law on Environment and Natural Resources of the Dominican Republic gives general protection for all its biodiversity (1).

For an effective species recovery and management plan to be put in place, field surveys determining the population size and distribution of the giant Hispaniolan galliwasp are needed. This species is being successfully bred in captivity, and more of these programmes are required to ensure the survival of the giant Hispaniolan galliwasp (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

Find out more about Hispaniolan biodiversity:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


Active at dusk and/or dawn.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
Active at night.
Producing young which develop from eggs that are retained inside the female’s body and are nourished by their yolk sac until they hatch; the young are then born live.
Describes an animal, a pair of animals or a group that occupies and defends an area.


  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2012)
  2. Incháutegui, S.J., Schwartz, A. and Henderson, R.W. (1985) Hispaniolan giant Diploglossus (Sauria, Anguidae): Description of a new species and notes on the ecology of D. warreni. Amphibia-Reptilia, 6(2): 195-201.
  3. Corry, E., Martin, L., Morton, M.N., Hilton, G.M., Young, R.P. and Garcia, G. (2010) A Species Action Plan for the Montserrat galliwasp Diploglossus montisserrati. Department of Environment, Montserrat. Available at:
  4. Cooper, B. (2009) Prey chemical discrimination by a diploglossine lizard, the giant Hispaniolan galliwasp (Celestus warreni). Amphibia-Reptilia, 30(1): 135-140.
  5. Schwartz, A. and Henderson, R.W. (1991) Amphibians and Reptiles of the West Indies: Descriptions, Distributions and Natural History. University of Florida Press, Gainesville.

Image credit

Giant Hispaniolan galliwasp  
Giant Hispaniolan galliwasp

© Twan Leenders

Twan Leenders
Conservation Biologist
Connecticut Audubon Society
2325 Burr Street
CT 06825
United States of America


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