|The gecko family of lizards includes hundreds
of species found in rainforests, mountains, and even deserts. Many have
unusual markings, and some give distinctive calls. Geckos have small, plump
bodies with large heads and eyes. Many species are vividly colored, and
some even change color. Because of geckos’ unusual appearance, some people
think they are dangerous. But these reptiles do not hurt humans.
Habitat: Geckos live in a wide range of habitats including tropical rainforests, parched deserts, and icy mountain peaks. They are not afraid of humans, and some species have expanded their range by stowing away on ships. For example, the common gecko originated in North Africa and was carried unknowingly by humans to southern France, the Canary Islands, and even islands in the South Pacific. In the Southwest some geckos seem to prefer living in houses to staying in their natural habitat. At might the lights attract so many insects that all the gecko needs to do is cling to the ceiling and wait for prey to fly by. The leopard gecko lives in arid, rocky parts of Asia, Unlike most other geckos, it has eyelids that can close. Like most other geckos, the ring tailed gecko has no eyelids. It licks its eyes to keep them moist and clean.
Food and Feeding: Most geckos hunt at night. The common gecko eats beetles, butterflies, millipedes, crickets, and cockroaches. Many larger species, such as the Caledonian gecko, pursue young lizards, mice, and small birds. They track their prey before pouching. Then they take it in their mouth and strike it against the ground. Some day active geckos, such as those in Madagascar, feed on fruit and flower nectar. The species Gehyra mutilata eats so much sweet food that it is called the sugar lizard. The Madagascan leaf tailed gecko washes itself allover with its tongue after every meal. Another gecko in the Seychelles rides on tortoises and feeds on insects attracted to the tortoises’ feces. Web footed geckos prey on insects such as the dune cricket in the Namib Desert.
Breeding: Geckos’ mating habits vary greatly, but most include a courtship ritual, such as displaying bright skin colors or uttering a distinct mating call. For example, between March and May the male tokay gecko in southeast Asia makes a barking sound that is probably a mating call. A male banded gecko approaches a prospective mate with his legs bent and head stretched forward. Wagging his tail, he nuzzles her flanks and licks her before mating. Like most reptiles, the majority of geckos lay eggs. The female house gecko lays four or five pairs of eggs between May and August, with two to four weeks between layings. Gecko egg shells tend to be soft at first but harden quickly. They have a sticky coating and are often stuck inside cracks or under bark or stones. It is not unusual to discover clumps of eggs stuck together if several females share a site. The female southern dwarf gecko has an unusual egg laying method. She strokes and pulls the eggs free with her hind legs. There are even species in New Zealand that bear live young. Geckos regularly shed their skin. This process starts shortly after they hatch.
Related Species: There are approximately 86 genera and 800 species of geckos. The gecko family is divided into four subfamilies: Eublepharinae, Diplodactylinae, Gekkoninae, and sphaerodactylinae. The Gekkoniae subfamily is the largest, with more than 550 species living all over the world. It includes the Mediterranean gecko, Hemidactylus turcicus.
Distribution: Southern California, Florida,
Mexico, Caribbean, South America, Mediterranean coast, Africa, the Middle
East, Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and Pacific Islands.
Features of the Gecko:
Did You Know:
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