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Gecko Facts

Updated on May 23, 2014
Unlike most geckos, Phelsuma are diurnal
Unlike most geckos, Phelsuma are diurnal | Source

Geckos Are A Fascinating Group of Lizards

Geckos are reptiles that share some common characteristics causing them to be grouped in the suborder Gekkota. With approximately 1500 different species, it is the biggest group of lizards. Geckos are famed for having adhesive toes, and their ability of being able to walk on vertical surfaces, and even on ceilings, but this is only one of the remarkable facts about them. Incidentally one of the seven families in the Gekkota suborder, Eublepharidae, which contains the very popular leopard gecko, are quite different from the other species. Members of the family are purely terrestrial and cannot climb.

Geckos Are The Only Lizards That Vocalize

Geckos are unique among lizards in that they vocalise to communicate with each other. The exact sounds they make depends on the species, but usually they make a variety of chirping noises. In fact their name comes from the Malay 'gekoq', the sound produced by the Tokay gecko, Gekko gecko, a very territorial and aggressive species. As well as sound geckos communicate by wagging their tails, bobbing their heads and 'push ups'.

The Tokay gecko's vocalisations resemble the sound "gekoq gekoq" giving all geckos their name
The Tokay gecko's vocalisations resemble the sound "gekoq gekoq" giving all geckos their name | Source

Geckos don't have eyelids

Except for leopard geckos, and other species in the family Eublepharidae, gecko eyes lack eyelids. To keep them clean and moist the reptiles frequently lick them with their long tongues.

A crested gecko using its tongue to clean its eye.
A crested gecko using its tongue to clean its eye. | Source
A neon day gecko is able to cling to a branch with only its hind feet allowing it to reach its food.
A neon day gecko is able to cling to a branch with only its hind feet allowing it to reach its food. | Source

The Facts about Gecko adhesion

The most remarkable gecko fact, is the way they way they can adhere to surfaces, which allows them to walk up vertical surfaces, even glass, and cross ceilings. Again the leopard gecko is different, it does not possess this ability and spends all its time on the ground. However most geckos are either arboreal, or live on walls of building, either inside or outside.

Despite references to 'sticky toes', the adhesive properties of geckos' toes is not due to their stickiness. That would be a big drawback, since the toe must not only adhere to a surface, but it must be able to lift off rapidly, otherwise the lizards would not be able to run up a wall.

Each gecko toe is covered by hundreds of thousands of hair-like projections called setae. Each seta in turn terminates in hundreds of spatula shaped projections. The current theory is that the adhesion is the result of very weak Van der Waals forces, the electrostatic attractions between the nuclei of one atom and the electrons of another atom. Although these forces are very weak, the sum of the forces created by the huge number of microscopic projections on each toe, is sufficient to hold the gecko in place. At the same time the forces are easily broken, when the toe is extended, allowing the gecko to run up a wall, or across the ceiling.

macro- and microscopic structure of a gecko's foot and sate.
macro- and microscopic structure of a gecko's foot and sate. | Source

Geckos Can Regenerate their Tails

Most geckos are able to drop their tails to avoid predators and then regenerate it. This is a very useful strategy to avoid a predator, if a gecko is caught by its tail, it will simply leave the tail behind and escape. Soon afterwards a blastoema will form and the tail will start growing again, although it will usually differ in colour from the original, and will not look as good. In fact many geckos, when feeling threatened, will wave their tails. Perhaps this is to attract attention to it, so the predator catches the tail, which can be left behind.

The exception to this is the crested gecko from New Caledonia which can drop the tail, but cannot regenerate it. Most of the New Caledonian geckos found in the wild, apparently are without tails, having lost them in some encounter with a predator.

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      Marisol 2 years ago

      I have to remember to dbiasle my Adblock+ when working client work. I spent a good hour trying to figure out why my Flash app wasn't loading my client's content only to find out that a directory that was being returned to me via XML was in a ads directory. Flash kept failing with URL not found. I love the plugin, but sometimes it can be too good.

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      aa lite 4 years ago from London

      Hi samowhamo,

      Thanks for reading the hub. I don't actually know what the career prospects of being a herpetologist are, I was more into molecular/developmental biology, I worked on frogs, but really looking at how the embryos of one specific species develops, which is actually quite different.

      I'm not really sure what projects herpetologists work on right now. I'm sure there is work being done in evolutionary biology. There is a guy on HubPages who is doing a Master's on snake venoms, perhaps you should ask him. Although that kind of work probably also involves a lot of molecular techniques, looking at proteins in venom etc. rather than being a zoologist.

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      samowhamo 4 years ago

      I have always been interested in reptiles that's why I want to be a herpetologist. I came across another hub of yours aout not being a scientists does that include herpetology because I really don't want to be anything else but that.