Geckos are one of the most diverse groups of reptiles. They are conspicuous because they can effortlessly climb even smooth walls.
What do geckos look like?
The gecko family belongs to the reptiles. They are a very old group of animals that have lived on earth for around 50 million years. The spectrum ranges from the almost three-centimeter small ball-fingered gecko to the tokee with a length of up to 40 cm. As with all reptiles, the gecko’s skin is covered with scales.
Most geckos are inconspicuous brownish or greenish in color. But there are also strikingly colorful geckos, these are mostly species that are active during the day. Many gecko species have adhesive toes with the typical lamellae, others have toes with claws, and still, others have membranes between the toes.
Like all reptiles, geckos need to shed their skin as they grow. And like our lizards, geckos can shed their tails when attacked by a predator. The tail will then grow back, but will not be as long as the original one. The tail is very important for the gecko: it serves as a fat and nutrient store for them.
Where do geckos live?
Geckos are distributed all over the world. Most live in tropical and subtropical regions, some also in southern Europe. Geckos are found in a wide variety of habitats. They inhabit deserts and semi-deserts, steppes and savannas, rocky regions, and tropical rain forests. Some also colonize gardens or even come into houses.
What types of gecko are there?
Almost 1000 different gecko species are known. These include well-known species such as the house gecko found in the Mediterranean region and the wall gecko, the leopard gecko that lives in large parts of Asia, or the palmatogecko from the African Namib Desert. Some species are only found on some islands. Examples are the flat-tailed gecko and Standing’s day gecko, which only inhabit Madagascar and a few nearby islands. The New Caledonian giant gecko is found only in New Caledonia, a group of islands in the South Pacific.
How old do geckos get?
The different gecko species have very different life expectancies. Some species like the tokee can live for over 20 years.
How do geckos live?
Geckos are shy animals and move very quickly, so you only get to see them for a moment. They are divided into day geckos and night geckos. The first group is active during the day, the second group in the twilight and at night. Three-quarters of gecko species belong to the nocturnal group.
These two groups can easily be distinguished by their eyes: day-active geckos have a round pupil, while nocturnal geckos have a narrow and slit-shaped pupil. Some species have movable eyelids, others lack lids and the eyes are protected by a transparent membrane. Geckos have excellent eyesight, but they only spot their prey as long as it is moving. Then they capture it with a lightning-fast jump.
Because the body temperature of geckos – like all reptiles – depends on the temperature of the environment, geckos like to sunbathe. The nocturnal geckos do this too, you can often see them sitting on sunlit rocks early in the morning, where they warm up. Geckos can easily climb smooth walls or even panes of glass, or run upside down on ceilings.
The reason for this is their specially trained feet. Many geckos have very wide toes with so-called adhesive lamellae. If you look at them under the microscope, you can see that these wafer-thin lamellae are covered with tiny adhesive hairs. When walking, these adhesive hairs are pressed onto the surface and hooked into the surface like a Velcro fastener.
Even seemingly smooth walls or even panes of glass have the tiniest bumps that can only be seen under high magnification. But there are also geckos that do not have adhesive lamellae, but instead have claws on their toes. The leopard gecko is good at climbing up rocks with its claws. And the palmatogecko has skins between its toes. With these webbed feet, he can walk over sand and dig himself into the sand of the desert at lightning speed.
Friends and foes of geckos
Birds and predators in particular can prey on geckos.
How do geckos reproduce?
Like all reptiles, geckos lay eggs that they allow hatching on land from the sun. The development of the eggs takes two to six months, depending on the species. Finally, the tiny young animals hatch from the eggs.
How do geckos communicate?
Unlike other reptiles, geckos stand out because of their voice. They emit a variety of sounds. The repertoire ranges from soft, varied chirping to loud barking. You can also hear croaking calls.
What do geckos eat?
Geckos are skilled predators. They feed mainly on insects such as flies, grasshoppers or crickets. Some, like the leopard gecko, even hunt scorpions or small rodents. But geckos also like to snack on sweet, ripe fruit.