Geckos are one of the most common reptile pets, and with more than 1800 species living throughout the earth they are one of the most versatile in appearance. However, most geckos share some key characteristics.
Geckos are lizards that are commonly between 6 inches to a foot in length, though some unsual breeds are shorter or longer than this. They have a stout body, thin legs, and some are brightly colored or patterned. Key characteristics are their unblinking eyes without eyelids, suction pads on their toes, and long flexible tongues.
Geckos are a beautiful and fascinating animal that possess are a range of remarkable features. I will look in turn at the different parts of their body and the characteristics of each.
What Geckos Look Like
Geckos are mostly quite small, with short fattish bodies, large heads, and long limbs with toes that are somewhat adhesive.
They are found in many different colors. The different hues are normally determined by the terrain that the geckos have evolved in, as geckos are excellent at camouflaging and hiding.
Smallest V Largest
The smallest gecko in the world is the Dwarf Gecko. This only grows to about 0.6 inches long. This is also the tiniest lizard in the world.
On the other hand, the world’s largest ever gecko is sadly now extinct. It was the kawekaweau, and it is known only by one single stuffed specimen that was found by chance in the basement of a museum in France. This gecko was 24 inches long (2 feet). There are no geckos living in this kind of size bracket now.
When most species of geckos hatch from their egg, they are typically about 3 to 4 inches long.
Later in their lives, adult females are usually somewhere between 6 and 8 inches long, and males are slightly bigger, usually somewhere between 8 to 10 inches. Some of the largest species of male geckos will reach one foot in length.
Eyes And No Eyelids
Geckos are mostly nocturnal and therefore have excellent night vision. Therefore the pupils of their eyes can dilate extremely wide in darkness to help them to see.
The most striking thing about a geckos eyes is that the majority of them do not have eyelids. This means that they never seem to blink.
Instead of eyelids, they have a clear transparent film over their eyes called a spectacle. This spectacle acts to protect the eyeball underneath.
To keep this spectacle clean, you will observe that geckos regularly lick their eyeballs with their long sticky tongue. This does two things:
- It helps to clean the eye, and remove bits of debris. This stops the eye from getting infected, and also keeps their level of vision unimpeded in any way.
- It keeps their eye moist. Without them licking it, their eyes would dry out or potentially overheat, particularly in the dry arid habitats that most of them live in throughout the world
It is not completely know why they have evolved to have no eyelids, but there are several theories. One is that their unblinking eyes helps with hunting. It means that they can stand completely still, and not even a blinking eye can alert their prey through movement.
There are some species of geckos that do have eyelids. These breeds seem to have evolved in desert or sandy regions, where eyelids are useful in keeping the sand out of their eyes.
One of the most well known characteristics of most geckos is their specialised toe pads. These help them to climb up all sorts of vertical surfaces such as trees and walls. They can even walk upside down along ceilings.
Some research from America also found that geckos can use their feet to run across the surface of water. The toe-pads are water repellent and that helps the geckos to aquaplane.
Their teeth are polyphyodonts. In lay-mans terms this means that they are able to replace all of their teeth.
Geckos have approximately 100 very small teeth. These teeth are replace about every three to four months.
Next to each fully grown tooth, there is another tooth growing at any one time.
Despite having so many teeth, geckos do not actually chew their food. They swallow it whole. Their teeth are used for catching and tearing up insect prey.
Most people are aware that gecko tongues are long. They are very flexible, being made of elastic muscle fibers.
When the muscles extend the tongues elongates out of the mouth, and when they contract it goes back in.
You will often observe their tongue flicking, and moving at high speed. They explore their surroundings with their tongue, as well as using it for washing, hunting and eating.
A geckos skin is not normally scaly unlike some other reptiles.
Geckos actually have skin that is covered in thousands of tiny hair-like spines that are quite hard to see with the naked eye.
Another well-known feature of geckos is their beautiful and versatile coloring. Geckos live throughout the world, and their different colors have developed due to the different terrains that the geckos have evolved in. Here are some of the most common colors you will see, and one example of a gecko that has this as their main color:
Green – Madagascan Giant Day Gecko. Madagascar is rainforest environment, and so the beautiful green coloring fits in well into this leafy terrain
Brown – Common House Geckos. These are native to much of Southern Asia.
Yellow – Leopard Gecko. This is a very popular breed of pet gecko. They have originated from sandy, arid regions such as Afghanistan and Pakistan
Blue – Electric Blue Day Gecko. This unusual gecko has evolved in the rainforest of Tanzania.
Orange spots – The Tokay Gecko. This is native to some Pacific islands and Southeast Asia
Geckos have long tails, that are often quite fat looking compared to that of some other lizards. Geckos use their tails to balance, and also they undulate as they move.
A well-known fact about their tails is that they can ‘drop’ them if they are under attack. Basically this means that the whole tail falls off, which means that they may be able to retreat to safety quicker and more effectively.
The tail takes about two months to grow back. When it grows back it looks slightly different. It is not so long and not as thin. It grows back shorter and more of a bulging shape.
There are approximately 1850 species of gecko found throughout the world. The geckos are regularly seen as pets are normally one of the following main types of species:
White lined gecko – these have a white line running down their back
Crested gecko – As the name suggests, these have a large crest on their head
Leopard gecko – Probably the most popular pet gecko, these are yellowish with brown spots, similar to a leopard
Madagascan Giant Gecko – These are large and green in color
Mediterranean house gecko – These are brown
Giant day gecko – One of the most visually striking lizards, these are an almost luminous green with red spots
Frog eyed gecko – These are a beautiful brown and yellow striped pattern. Their heads resemble frogs slightly more than the average gecko
Dwarf yellow-headed gecko – These are really unusual. They have an almost blueish body, with just the head is yellow with dark patterns
Cat gecko – These are very distinctive, with a slightly cat-like face, and a curved tail.
Geckos are a beautiful and versatile breed of animals, yet they mostly share similar characteristics. They are one of the most widely ranging pets, in terms of color, pattern, and individuality.