Do Geckos Have Eyelids? (It’s Not What You Think)


There are many striking things about geckos such as their ability to stay incredibly still when hunting, or their long, sticky tongues that move at such lightning speed. One thing that many people often notice and ask about is do geckos have eyelids.

Most species of geckos throughout the world do not have eyelids. There are more than 1500 species of these. However, there are at least 18 species of geckos that do have eyelids, and these are also found around the earth.

The vast majority of geckos that are found as pets certainly do not have eyelids. This seems to stand them apart certainly from mammals, and many other types of animals.

But why don’t they have them? And what do they have instead? (If anything) It’s time you found out!

leopard gecko

Most Geckos Don’t Have Eyelids

The vast majority of geckos do not have eyelids and therefore are unable to blink. However, they do have a clear film over their eye, that acts as a kind of permanent unmovable barrier. This transparent film is called a spectacle.

Having no eyelid over the top of this spectacle comes with certain issues. Geckos need to:

  1. Keep this film moist and stop it from drying out
  2. They need to remove any dirt from it immediately so that their vision is not impaired
  3. They are unable to ‘close’ their eyes at night so must find an alternative

How Geckos Keep Their Eyes Moist

Geckos have spectacular long tongues, that are really moist and sticky. The regularly lick their own eyes, and this keeps their eyes moist. In this way their tongue acts in the same ways as a human’s eyelid.

Most geckos are native to hot countries also, and this licking of their eyes also helps in keeping the eyes cool.

How Geckos Remove Dirt For Their Eyes

Same as with keeping them moist, the licking of their eyes helps to remove dirt or grit from the eyes.

This keeps their vision at a high level, and also stops any pieces of dirt getting lodged or potentially causing an infection.

How Geckos Sleep (Without Closing Their Eyes)

Having no eyelids causes quite a serious problem, in that geckos are not able to close their eyes. This problem is added to by the fact that the majority of geckos are nocturnal: they hunt at night, and sleep during the day.

The problem they have is that the brightest part of the day is also their time to sleep. How do they counter this?

One of the ways is that geckos will often try to hide under something when they are going to sleep. You will often find a gecko under a piece of bark, or a rock, or some other natural object. This helps protect them as well as block out the light.

They other skill that most of them have developed is that they will contract their eyeballs. So instead of covering their eyes, they just shrink their eyes to the smallest possible size to let in a minimum of light and stimulation.

Geckos Without Eyelids

As I stated in the introduction, there are 1500 types of geckos without eyelids, and they are found throughout the world.

These include many of the world’s most well-known and distinctive geckos such as:

  1. Leopard geckos – These are the world’s most common gecko pets, known for their beautiful and distinctive patterning
  2. House geckos – These originated in the Mediterranean
  3. Tokay geckos – A really distinctive breed of gecko, with blue-green bodies and orange spots
  4. Day geckos – These are really brightly coloured, almost luminous green with some red markings
  5. Crested Geckos – These geckos, once thought extinct, have made a huge comeback throughout the world and are now one of the most popular breeds
  6. Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko – This breed of gecko is much more unusual and less well—known than the other species I have just listed. However, I thought I would add this one in as it has such a spectacular name, and also it has bright eyes that are either a deep red, yellow or white, depending on the type.
leopard gecko close-up

Geckos With Eyelids

There are only approximately 18 species of geckos that have eyelids. Though there are less of them, they are found all over the world.

There is a theory that the majority of these geckos (if not all) live in sandy habitats. This has possibly led to the development of eyelids as a key way of keeping sand out of their eyes.

The types of geckos that have eyelids all close them when they sleep to keep the light (and anything else) out of their eyes.

Shedding The Spectacle

Geckos, same as the majority of reptiles, of course shed their skin. Did you know that they also shed their spectacle over the eye?!

There are some theories that the reason that they have evolved to have no eyelids is perhaps partly due to this skin shedding. It might be too problematic to shed the skin of eyelids, without serious impairment to vision for at least a short time. 

Does Having No Eyelids Help With Hunting?

There are numerous theories about why geckos do not have eyelids. One is that a lack of eyelids helps them when they hunt.

Geckos are of course natural hunters, and spend a lot of time searching for bugs and other sources of food (crickets, mealworms, mice, and many other things).

One thing about having no eyelids is that your eyes are completely still. Geckos are amazingly still when hunting. They are excellent at camouflaging themselves into the background. If they had blinking eyes, this would make them much more noticeable to their prey, who are constantly alert for signs of movement.

Any Other Reasons For No Eyelids?

The main other reason is that geckos, along with many other reptiles, just seem to have gone down a different evolutionary path to other animals. There is no right or wrong, or any intrinsic need for all animals to have eyelids. They just seem to have found a different way, one that is at least as successful as having them.

Are There Any Other Animals Without Eyelids?

There are lots of other animals that don’t have eyelids, and a huge number of reptiles in particular. Other animals include:

  1. Most snakes
  2. Night lizards
  3. Many amphibians
  4. Skinks
  5. Most types of fish

There are very few types of fish that do have eyelids, possibly only sharks being the exception. In general if an animal either lives in or near water, then they regularly will not have eyelids, as they basically do not need them.

Top 7 Gecko Eyelid Facts

1. Geckos don’t have eyelids but have a spectacle

2. They keep their eyes clean by licking them

3. They contract their eyeballs when they sleep

4. The only geckos that have eyeballs have evolved in sandy habitats

5. Having no eyelids may well help them when hunting

6. They shed the spectacle same as their skin

7. They have to keep their eyeballs moist

Conclusion

The likelihood is that if you get a gecko for a pet then it almost certainly will not have eyelids.

Now if you see it licking its own eyeballs (which you definitely will), you will understand all the ins and outs of why it is doing that.

Many reptiles have just taken a different evolutionary path to mammals, and the lack of eyelids is one of the many things that makes them unique and gives them character.

Martin Williams

Martin is the Founder of Mercury Pets, and he's been a passionate enthusiast for a multitude of pets all his life. He is driven by his desire to share his knowledge and experience with other animal lovers around the world. Find out more about Martin at https://mercurypets.com/our-writers/

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