Lizards: The Leaf-Tailed Gecko
Different Species of Geckos
Geckos are a species of lizard found throughout the world in tropical climates. They range in size from less than 1" to 24" in length. Geckos have transparent membranes instead of eyelids and they use their tongue to keep their eyes clean and moist!
These lizards are very vocal reptiles. They interact with other members of their species by "chirping." They also have specialized "sticky" feet, capable of climbing vertically. Their toes secrete a substance that helps them adhere to most smooth surfaces. Geckos are primarily insect eaters, favoring crickets and moths.
There over 1500 different types of geckos scattered over the globe, but we are going to look at a few of the leaf-tailed variety.
Cape Melville Leaf-Tailed Gecko
The Cape Melville leaf-tailed gecko is a newly discovered species of reptile. Its scientific name is Saltuarius eximius, which means extraordinary keeper of the forest.
In March 2013 two men, Dr. Conrad Hoskin, a researcher from James Cook University, and Dr. Tim Laman, a National Geographic photographer and Harvard University researcher, discovered this new species in a mountainous area in north-eastern Australia.
Little is known of the gecko yet except it is nocturnal and hunts for insects hanging head down among the mountain boulders.
Satanic Leaf-Tailed Lizard
Also known as eyelash or fantastic leaf-tailed gecko, the satanic lizard is found only on the island nation of Madagascar. Their natural camouflage and leafy tail make them exceptionally adept at hiding on tree trunks in the rainforest jungles.
The Latin name Uroplatus phantasticus translates as imaginary flat tail. The name satan flat tail seems to fit it much better due to its demonic looking eyes. The eyes are well adapted to nocturnal hunting, which most geckos specialize in. They eat a variety of insects. The satanic gecko grows to a length of 6" and is generally considered the smallest species of the uroplatus variety.
This gecko is threatened with extinction due to both the destruction of its natural habitat and its popularity as a pet. Some of these geckos are being bred and raised in captivity, so in the future, the profit motive for catching wild geckos will be reduced.
Southern Leaf Tail
The southern leaf tail, Saltaurius wyberba, lives on the natural granite belt of Australia. Wyberba is purportedly a native Australian aboriginal word meaning "end of mountain." It's a perfect name for these rock-dwelling lizards.
Like other geckos, this species can shed its tail when threatened by a predator. The new tail will grow back, but will not resemble the old one in coloring or pattern.
This Guenther gecko can be found at elevations of 30 to 120 meters in the deciduous forests of Madagascar. It roosts and looks for food on bushes and low trees. It also breeds in trees, although it descends to the ground to lay its eggs in leaf-litter.
The Guenther lizard is considered endangered due to the destruction of the Madagascar forests by clear-cutting, fire and livestock grazing.
Henkel's Leaf-Tailed Gecko
Henkel's leaf-tailed gecko, Uroplatus henkeli, is one of the largest of the uroplatus family, sometimes reaching 12" in length. They are found entirely on the tropical African island of Madagascar.
The Henkel lizard lives its entire life among the trees, only venturing down to lay its eggs in leaves lying on the rainforest's ground. Their rough skin and brown hue enable them to hide on the bark of trees. They are insectivores like other geckos, though the Henkel will also occasionally eat snails.
Henkel's gecko has made the World Wildlife Fund's "top ten most wanted species" that are threatened with extinction due to the pet trade.
Giant Leaf-Tailed Gecko
Another nocturnal Madagascar native, the Uroplatus fimbriatus is another large type, reaching almost a foot in length. It gets its name fimbriatus, which means fingered, for its unique wrinkly skin.
When this gecko is bothered, it opens its jaws wide and screams! This species, like all Madagascar lizards, are threatened due to the pet trade and deforestation.
Mossy Leaf-Tail Gecko
The mossy leaf-tail gecko, Uroplatus sikorae, makes excellent use of its natural camouflage. Its coloration mimics the bark of trees, and can even resemble the moss and lichens which grow on the trees. The rough pimply skin and irregular edges of its skin break up the outline of this gecko. When pressed against the bark of a tree, the mossy leaf tail can be almost undetectable.
This gecko is the only uroplatus that has a distinct subspecies, the Uroplatus sikorae sameiti. Named for its discoverer in 1990, Joachim Sameit, it can be identified by its pink palate. The sikorae has a black interior mouth. Native to Madagascar, this species is also endangered due to deforestation and the pet trade.
Lined Leaf Tail
Uroplatus lineatus, the lined leaf tail, is another Madagascar native. It lives in the rainforests, living on the bamboo which the species' lined skin pattern resembles. This is another large gecko, growing up to 24 cm in length.
This reptile is much slimmer than the other species of leaf tails. The slimmer tail more closely mimics the narrow bamboo leaves among which it hides. Isn't evolution wonderful! Again, as with the other species of Madagascar geckos, it is endangered because of human activity.
Information About Buying a Gecko
If you decide you want to own a leaf-tailed gecko, research the proper habitat and feeding of the desired species. Make sure you are not buying a wild-caught gecko and contributing to the loss of these animals in the wild. A captive-bred gecko will be used to handling by humans and will be less likely to be aggressive.
Since these species are mostly nocturnal, their eyesight can be damaged by being exposed to bright or artificial light. Ensure they have a habitat that contains an area where they can feel protected and can sleep during the day.
Have you ever owned a lizard?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Gable Rhoads