gecko

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"Geckos can climb vertical walls and roam ceilings."

Geckos have been around for at least 300 million years. Scientists have discovered geckos preserved in amber dating back to the Cretaceous period, and the specimens look an awful lot like the gentle little lizards you can see in many parts of the world today.

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There are about 1,500 species of geckos, and they range in size from the Jaragua Sphaero dwarf gecko, which is three-quarters of an inch long and weighs less than a hundredth of an ounce, to the giant New Caledonian gecko, which can grow to 17 inches, Weigh the scale to 10 oz.

As long as the average temperature reaches 72 degrees Fahrenheit, geckos can thrive in almost every habitat, including rainforests, mountains and deserts.

Gecko infographic

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5 Incredible Gecko Facts!

You probably don't know much about geckos, other than their notoriety in a series of auto insurance ads! They are amazing creatures that use their toes to help them adhere to any surface other than Teflon.

Contrary to popular belief, geckos don't necessarily have "sticky" toes that stick like glue. They adhere easily to surfaces thanks to nanoscale hairs called setae. It is conceivable that the 6.5 million setae on a gecko are enough to support the weight of two people.

Gecko's Health and Recreation

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Gecko eyes are at least 350 times more sensitive to light than human eyes.

Geckos are at the top of the reptile class in many ways:

  • These reptiles climb nearly every vertical surface with little effort thanks to the tension created by the hundreds of thousands of tiny hairs on their toes.
  • Geckos are the only lizards with true vocal cords.
  • These reptiles clean their eyes by licking.
  • When they lose their tails to predators, they can regrow new ones.
  • These reptiles replace their teeth by growing new ones every three to four months.

scientific name

There are seven different gecko families.

©iStock.com/MattiaATH

These animals belong to the taxonomic group that shares the name "Squamous Reptiles." "Squamate" is derived from the Latin "squamatus," which means scaly, although these reptiles themselves do not have scales. They belong to the order Gecko, and the name is thought to be derived from the Indonesian-Malay word "gēkoq", a transliteration of the sound the animal makes.

The gecko suborder consists of seven families:

  • Diplodactylida : This family includes 137 species from Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. Its scientific name is derived from the Greek words for double ("diplo") and finger ("daktylos"). The crested gecko is a popular pet and member of the family.
  • Carphodactylidae : Carphodactylidae is another family of Australian geckos that includes 30 species. Its scientific name is derived from the Greek word for finger and straw ("karphos").
  • Pygopodidae : Pygopodidae look like snakes, but are actually geckos. This family consists of 35 species native to Australia and New Guinea. "Pygo" is Greek for buttocks, and "podi" is Greek for foot, so the family name roughly means "foot under the sole of the foot."
  • Eublepharidae : Eublepharidae are a family of 30 species found in Asia, Africa and North America. They are distinguished from other species by their movable eyelids and by their absence of sticky toe pads. The genus includes leopards, fat-tailed geckos, and clawed geckos.
  • Sphaerodactylidae : The family Sphaerodactylidae includes more than 200 species distributed throughout the world. The scientific name is derived from the Greek words for circle ("sphaero") and finger ("dactyl").
  • Phyllodactylidae : "Phyllo" means leaf in Greek, and many of the 148 species belonging to this family are known as leaf-toed geckos. Yelongidae are found all over the world.
  • Gecko family : Gecko family, or common gecko, is the most widely distributed family, comprising more than 950 species. Notable species include the house, tokay, leaf-tailed and diurnal geckos.

evolution and origin

Leopard gecko on white background
Geckos have an amazing evolutionary history.

©DWI YULIANTO/Shutterstock.com

Researchers have dated the oldest known gecko fossil to 100 million years ago. Reptiles are thought to have descended from a common ancestor dating back to the Carboniferous period between 300 and 350 million years ago. The oldest known reptile fossil is hylonomus, estimated to date back 315 million years.

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Exactly when geckos developed their remarkable climbing feet is unknown. The 100-million-year-old fossil was discovered showing the gecko's tail and feet, including setae, or the tiny hairs on the feet. Other adaptations observed in modern species, such as camouflage and the leaf-tailed gecko's distinctive tail resembling a dried leaf, suggest that they were far removed from their ancient ancestors.

Humans have always been in awe of the gecko's ability to stick to almost any surface. Its feet are able to do this by using van der Waals forces, an electrical attraction between molecules, and the structures that make this possible are called setae, which are made up of millions of individual hairs. Scientists have even been working to recreate these hairs to produce their own adhesive.

According to the Global Gecko Society, humans have identified five different gecko subfamilies, and there are now more than 2,000 species of these reptiles known in the world. Geckos come in a variety of colors and shades, and some are able to blend in with their surroundings. Additionally, some female geckos have a remarkable ability to reproduce without a mate, such as the mourning gecko.

Over time, geckos have adapted to their environment in a number of ways. For example, leopard geckos cannot climb walls, but they can burrow to escape extreme temperatures. Most geckos have the same type of feet and eyes, and they also have a defense mechanism that releases foul smells and droppings when attacked by predators. Geckos usually feed on small insects such as cockroaches and worms. This wide range of adaptations demonstrates how the species has evolved over time to survive in different environments.

appearance

Namib Sand Gecko - Pachydactylus rangei, beautiful little gecko endemic to South West Africa, Namib Desert, Walvis Bay, Namibia.
Geckos vary widely in color.

© David Havel/Shutterstock.com

These reptiles are small lizards with stubby bodies, large heads and tails, and, in addition to members of the podiadae, prominent limbs. Animal colors vary by species. Most are gray or brown, better suited to blending in with surrounding rocks, sand, and mud, thereby evading predators. However, leopard geckos have bright yellow skin dotted with brown spots. Some geckos are electric blue. Crested geckos are orange or red, while dongkai geckos have bright orange spots.

Their tails also vary greatly in shape and morphology, depending on the species. Some are long and pointed, while others are short, blunt, or even spherical. These reptiles store fat in their tails so they can get calories when food sources are scarce. When animals are pursued by predators, their tails have evolved to fall off easily. When this happens, the animal regrows its tail. Their tails actually have their own neural control centers that allow the tail to move and lunge independently for up to half an hour after separation from the body.

These reptiles have about 100 teeth. Their teeth don't wear down because they replace them every three to four months.

Their skin is covered with millions of tiny hair-like spines and is very soft to the touch. These spines trap water droplets, keeping dust and other air pollutants away from the gecko's skin. The tiny hairs that cover the toes are called "setae." These hairs serve a different purpose than the hair that covers an animal's body. The bristles are actually small enough to activate molecular van der Waals forces, allowing geckos to easily climb vertical surfaces such as walls, and even move comfortably on ceilings.

While some species are active during the day, they are primarily nocturnal, as evidenced by the design of their eyes. The eyes of all but a few species are covered with translucent membranes rather than eyelids. They lick their eyeballs to keep them clean! (The leopard gecko is unique in that its eyelids are movable.) Their pupils are vertical, and their eyes are 350 times more sensitive to light than the human eye. These lizards also have sophisticated auditory systems; they are able to hear high-frequency sounds that other reptiles cannot.

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Behavior

animals, animal body parts, animal eyes, animal heads, animal wildlife
Geckos have real vocal cords and can make many different sounds to communicate.

©iStock.com/Heru Agung

Although these reptiles are not particularly social animals, they possess a sophisticated vocal communication system compared to other lizards. They have real vocal cords. They bark and croak to establish their territory, attract mates, and evade predators; they also hiss and squeak. The roar of the New Caledonian gecko is so distinctive that the indigenous tribes of those islands dubbed it the "devil in the tree." A leaf-tailed gecko in Madagascar sends out a distress call that many have likened to a child's scream.

They also use their tails to communicate with other geckos. Slow, writhing movements indicate awareness of another animal's presence, while more vigorous shaking is a defensive movement designed to distract or evade a predator.

Another characteristic of their behavior is shaking their heads. This movement is associated with feeding, and it helps the animal move food from the throat to the stomach.

Most species are nocturnal. Night is the most active time for them to climb mountains. They're also fast runners; flat-tailed geckos clock in at three feet per second, and they can run across water.

Habitat

Crested Gecko - Striped Crested
Geckos live in many different habitats around the world, including deserts, rainforests, and rocky outcrops.

©EWStock/Shutterstock.com

These reptiles live in a variety of warm habitats on every continent around the globe except Antarctica. The large amount of morphological variation found in different species reflects the way they have evolved to adapt to specific habitats. For example, the Northland tree species owes its bright green color to the New Zealand forests and bushes it inhabits. With their yellowish skin and black spots, the leopard gecko blends in well with the semi-deserts of its native Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. The red-spotted tokai species is well hidden in the lowland or submontane rainforests of Southeast Asia, while the black-spotted tokai species is adapted to the rocky regions of Vietnam and China.

diet

what do geckos eat
Geckos eat worms, insects, fruit, snails, and sometimes nectar.

© AZ-Animals.com

These reptiles are primarily insectivores, but they also eat worms, fruit, and nectar. Leaf-tailed geckos love to eat snails. Large geckos, such as the New Caledonian gecko, even feed on small birds and rodents.

What do geckos eat?

Snakes, birds, spiders and cats.

What do geckos eat?

Insects, worms, fruit and nectar. For a complete guide to what geckos eat, read "What Geckos Eat: 15 Foods in Your Diet"!

Predators and Threats

Leopard gecko sitting smiling
Geckos have to watch out for predatory birds.

© iStock.com/Samantha Dunn

Predators include snakes, birds, spiders, and human-introduced species such as dogs and cats. In the rainforests of northern South America, the animals are stalked by the much smaller giant tarantulas, which use their venom to paralyze and liquefy the gecko's flesh. Birds of prey such as hawks and owls usually live in climates that are too cold for geckos, but when temperatures drop below freezing and these birds fly south, the reptiles become their favorite prey.

Most species are not threatened with extinction, but a few are on the IUCN Red List. For example, New Caledonia's crested gecko was thought extinct for years after it was first discovered in 1866, and was not rediscovered until 1994. Two other New Caledonian species, Bavayia goroensis and Bavayia ornate , are also red listed because mining activities are shrinking their habitat.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Different leopard gecko variants facing each other on white background
Male geckos attract mates by vibrating their tails and making cute sounds.

©Nynke van Holten/Shutterstock.com

Males attract females by making distinctive mating sounds and vibrating their tails. During mating, the male grasps the skin at the back of the female's neck with his jaws and tucks his tail under her abdomen, bringing the animal's cloacal opening close for fertilization. However, some species, such as the mourning gecko found in Central and South America, can reproduce by parthenogenesis.

Most of these animals lay eggs. The length of the gestation period varies widely: leopard geckos may lay their eggs 16 to 22 days after mating, while harlequin geckos can last three to four years. Forty-three species endemic to New Zealand gave birth to live pups.

The typical nest size is two and the eggs are laid on the ground under rocks and tree bark. Their eggs take 35 to 90 days to hatch. Once eggs are laid, females show no interest in the eggs or hatchlings. Although many hatchlings have different body markings than adults, they move, behave, and respond to their environment exactly like adults.

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In captivity, these reptiles have relatively long lifespans. For example, leopard geckos typically live between 15 and 20 years. In the wild, they can live for about five years without predation. A study in New Zealand has found geckos in the wild that are believed to be at least 36 years old, well beyond the average lifespan of a gecko.

population

Baby leopard gecko emerging from an egg.
Some species of gecko lay eggs, while others give birth to live young.

©lessyebastian/Shutterstock.com

Scientists believe these reptiles originated in Southeast Asia during the Lower Cretaceous period, but they are now found in abundance almost anywhere in the world where the average temperature is 72 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. It is impossible to estimate how many people there are on Earth right now.

Protect

Several gecko species are endangered due to habitat loss.

©Tallies/Shutterstock.com

Several species of gecko have been identified as endangered or critically endangered. These include the tailless gecko (Gonatodes albogularis), the dwarf gecko (Sphaerodactylus ariasae) and the Okinawa leaf-toed gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia). Major threats to their survival include habitat loss due to urbanization, deforestation, and agricultural expansion, as well as the trade in collecting pets for the exotic pet market and road accidents due to increased traffic in their habitat. Additionally, invasive species can compete with native geckos for food sources and nesting sites. To ensure these creatures stay on our planet, we must work together through responsible land use practices like sustainable forestry management, wildlife conservation efforts like population dynamics research projects, and habitat conservation initiatives like creating protected areas for vulnerable populations , reducing our impact on the environment species.

gecko in the zoo

Every zoo with a reptile house probably has at least a few specimens on display. Zoos with noteworthy reptile collections include the San Diego Zoo, the Fort Worth Zoo, the St. Louis Zoo, the Los Angeles Zoo, and the Bronx Zoo.

33 species of gecko

There are dozens of different types of geckos, each more beautiful than the other.

©iStock.com/Mauvries

  1. crested gecko
  2. Dongkai Gecko
  3. leopard gecko
  4. common gecko
  5. Gargoyle Gecko
  6. African fat-tailed gecko
  7. New Caledonian Giant Gecko
  8. mole gecko
  9. Tropical House Gecko
  10. mediterranean house gecko
  11. Schlegel's Japanese gecko
  12. golden gecko
  13. Golden Dust Day Gecko
  14. common flat-tailed gecko
  15. Frog Eyed Gecko
  16. jewel gecko
  17. western banded gecko
  18. Henkel's Leaf-tailed Gecko
  19. helmeted gecko
  20. East Indian Leopard Gecko
  21. Wheeler's Gecko
  22. Texas Banded Gecko
  23. ocelot gecko
  24. Lined gecko
  25. Duvaucel's Gecko
  26. Carrot-tailed viper gecko
  27. forest gecko
  28. indo pacific gecko
  29. short-fingered gecko
  30. cape dwarf gecko
  31. harlequin gecko
  32. Gibbon's thick-toed gecko
  33. Chinese cave gecko

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Geckos are carnivores, which means they eat other animals.

Geckos belong to the animal kingdom.

Geckos belong to the class of reptiles.

Geckos belong to the phylum Chordate.

Geckos belong to the gecko family.

Geckos belong to the order Squamata.

Geckos are covered with scales.

Geckos live in rocky deserts and mountains.

Geckos prey on insects, worms and small birds.

Natural enemies of geckos include snakes, birds and spiders.

Geckos have an average of 2 babies.

Geckos can live from 2 to 9 years.

Geckos can travel at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.

Geckos are small nocturnal lizards found in all warm regions of the world. They are known for their ability to move quickly on vertical surfaces, and they are the only lizard species with true vocal cords.

Geckos are thought to have evolved in Southeast Asia sometime during the Lower Cretaceous, but today, they can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

Snakes, birds and spiders eat geckos.

No! Geckos are tame animals, however, in captivity they have been known to bite humans from time to time if they feel threatened by rough handling.

Yes. Geckos make excellent terrarium pets. Crested geckos, leopard geckos, African fat-tailed geckos, gargoyle geckos and New Caledonian giant geckos are particularly popular.

The key differences between salamanders and geckos include their size, skin, diet, habitat, and training. Geckos may be very similar to salamanders in size and color patterns, but that's where their resemblance ends. Geckos are reptiles with more than 1,500 species, while salamanders are amphibians with more than 550 species. Since the two animals are from different classes, it is expected that their reproductive processes will be different. Unlike salamander eggs, which do not have shells, geckos lay amniotic eggs with shells, which prevent them from drying out.