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Gecko

Updated on August 19, 2014

Fascinating Lizard

Geckos have fascinated me for many years. We see them occasionally in the desert. They are tiny and swift, and when annoyed, captured, threatened, they make a HUGE NOISE, a squeal that cannot POSSIBLY come from a creature so small! Yet it does!

There are many different kinds of geckos in the world, but the one I will talk about mainly is the Tucson Banded Gecko, Coleonyx variegatus bogerti. This particular gecko showed up in my kitchen sink one evening. Of course the first thing I did was go grab my camera. I was seriously afraid I would not get a decent picture. But on the contrary, I got one of the BEST pictures of a wild animal I have ever taken! I will show you why, among other things.

These little guys superficially look like they have a very fine and delicate skin. They look like they couldn't possibly survive in the desert. And as a matter of fact, they tend to run around mainly at night. I never dreamed they have scales like any other lizard, because the scales are so small you probably won't see them without a magnifying glass.

I was certainly blessed by the visit of this little fellow. And he seemed to be too petrified to do anything more than just sit there (or lie there or whatever), and even let me pose him. Originally, his body was straight. But I was able to curve his tail around, and he let me do it.

After taking several pictures of him, I scooped him up into a box and took him outside, and let him go.

Tucson Banded Gecko

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Full body shot. Just how I posed him.Notice the tiny scales on his body.
Full body shot. Just how I posed him.
Full body shot. Just how I posed him.
Notice the tiny scales on his body.
Notice the tiny scales on his body.

Tucson Banded Geckos are a variety of Banded Gecko, a lizard that ranges from southern California, through southwest New Mexico, southern Arizona, Utah, Nevada) and northern Mexico (Sonora, northwest Baja California). This means that one of its primary ranges is the Sonoran Desert, which encompasses southwestern Arizona, a small part of southern California, Sonora, and Baja California, both in Mexico.

They grow to be up to six inches in size. This particular one that I have photographed may be only a juvenile, because they develop spots within bands at an older age, according to various sources, but it's the only size and pattern we have ever seen.

They eat insects and spiders, specializing in scorpions, which is fine with me, because we have more than enough scorpions in the house. One is more than enough. We have killed quite a few over the years. If a Tucson Banded Gecko wants to take up residence in our house and keep our scorpions under control, he is more than welcome!

Like most lizards, Banded Geckos will shed their tails when frightened. Because the tail fat is what gets them through winter hibernation, if they lose their tails close to hibernation time, they may not survive the winter.

Banded Geckos are somewhat unique among lizards because they have movable eyelids. They are also somewhat unique in that they don't have toe pads. However, the toe pads of most geckos are most interesting, so I am going to talk about them anyway. :)

In the photos above, notice the tiny scales, and the larger ones on the eyelids. The tail also has larger scales.

Setae

Gecko foot on glass. Notice the structure of the pads.
Gecko foot on glass. Notice the structure of the pads.

Geckos are able to walk up walls and on the underside of objects by virtue of microscopic hairs called "setae". (However, they cannot walk on Teflon.)

According to Wikipedia, "The 5-toed feet of a gecko are covered with elastic hairs called setae and the end of these hairs are split into nanoscale structures called spatulae...The sheer abundance and proximity to the surface of these spatulae make it sufficient for van der Waals forces alone to provide the required adhesive strength."

To give you an idea of how small a seta is, the seta of a Tokay Gecko is about 110 micrometers long and 4.2 micrometers wide. A Tokay Gecko has over 3 million setae on the two front feet.

Research ruled out other possibilities for the reason why geckos can walk on the underside of objects. There are no glands, and hence no sticky surfaces. Suction cups were also ruled out in 1934. The toes will remain stuck even in a vacuum. Geckos could still stick to surfaces where electrostatic charges are not possible, so they ruled that one out as well. Their ability isn't due to the ability to grab with tiny hooks because they can walk on a smooth surface. It was finally determined that the feet adhere with intermolecular forces.

The other fascinating thing is that a gecko can let go of the surface with his foot in only 15 milliseconds! Their feet do not become dirty, so they can resume climbing at any time.

Scientists and engineers have been studying the structure of gecko feet and have developed some crude synthetic setae, that can be used to fasten small objects to the underside surface of an object.

For more information, see the Wikipedia article Synthetic Setae

The photos is by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Geckos

Tell me about your experiences with geckos.

Have you ever seen a gecko in the wild?

Yes

Yes

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    • Virginia Allain 3 years ago from Central Florida

      I live in Florida so we have the brown/green ones, not the banded ones. Quite a few live on my lanai and dine on the insects on my container plants.

    • federico-biuso 3 years ago

      Yes, I did. My country house is populated by geckos :)))

    • Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

      Yes. I love to have gecko encounters in the wild.

    • LoriBeninger 3 years ago

      Yes. We used to stay at a resort in Hawaii, on the island of Kauai, where the geckos ran rampant. They even scurried along the walls and ceilings of a local (and quite elegant) restaurant. I love them - primarily for the same reason you do, which is their insect-control feature. I have also heard they are supposed to be good luck.

    • lesliesinclair 3 years ago

      Yes, especially down in the Caymans, where they run wild, as the saying goes.

    • Tim Bader 3 years ago from Surrey, UK

      I've always liked Geckos but only get to see them when I travel (or in zoos!)

    • Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Yes, and I just love seeing them.

    No

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      • TanoCalvenoa 3 years ago

        No only in pet stores and in terrariums at people's houses, and at zoos.

      • Pat Goltz 3 years ago

        @David Stone1: I had a nasty experience with that company. I'm glad you're OK with them, because I'm not. Their gecko is cute, though.

      • David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

        I buy my car insurance from one.

      • anonymous 3 years ago

        me neither

      • razelle09 3 years ago

        nope

      Other Lizards of Southwestern Arizona - Gecko has some friends

      Click thumbnail to view full-size
      Ornate Tree Lizard.Collared Lizard.Tiger Whiptail.Desert Spiny Lizard.
      Ornate Tree Lizard.
      Ornate Tree Lizard.
      Collared Lizard.
      Collared Lizard.
      Tiger Whiptail.
      Tiger Whiptail.
      Desert Spiny Lizard.
      Desert Spiny Lizard.

      Regarding the photos above, these are other lizards that I have photographed.

      Ornate Tree Lizard (Urosaurus ornatus) was captured in Madera Canyon.

      Collared Lizard (Crotaphytus collaris) was captured near the Wupatki Ruins in northern Arizona, but I see them on my window frequently.

      The other two lizards were photographed in Sweetwater Wetlands, southern Arizona.

      Tiger Whiptail is Aspidoscelis tigris.

      Desert Spiny Lizard is Sceloporus magister.

      I am still looking for a Gila Monster. One has been seen on our property, but I wasn't one of the lucky people to see it. I have only photographed them in captivity. I am also looking for a Desert Horned Lizard, but no luck there, either. I used to keep them as pets in Texas as a child, but I've never seen one here in the wild.

      Poll Just for Fun

      Where can you walk?

      See results

      Iraqi Gecko

      Our youngest son is in the Army, and served in Iraq during the war to remove Saddam. He found and photographed this gecko on the wall of the building where he was staying.

      This is a Bent-toed Gecko, Gymnodactylus scaber.

      Coot Feet

      For walking on lily pads?
      For walking on lily pads?

      other interesting feet

      The feet in the photo belong to an American Coot (Fulica americana). They are said to be particularly useful for walking on lily pads. I find them fascinating! I've never seen a coot walking on lily pads, but I know that lily pads are soft and would fold relatively easily. This foot design is perfect for solving the problem of walking on lily pads.

      Folks, these fabulous designs didn't just happen by random chance. Let's give credit where it is due. God designed them. Isn't God wonderful?

      The Gecko as a Symbol

      Geckos have been regarded as a symbol for centuries. In the American Southwest, they are often used to decorate houses, because they symbolize long life and prosperity. In the past, they have been regarded as a totem. Some of the rationale for this appears to be the fact that they come out at twilight, so they are creatures of transition and mystery.

      There are many wonderful gecko designs that are used for these decorations.

      If you use "gecko as symbol" as a search term on Google, you can see some of these designs. Many of them are very beautiful.

      Here is an example of a small collection of gecko tattoos.

      Your thoughts welcome, or just say hi, and let me know you visited.

      Guestbook

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        • Pat Goltz profile image
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          Pat Goltz 3 years ago

          @Virginia Allain: Thanks for the neat comment. As far as I know, the lizards that do push-ups are the whiptails. :)

        • Virginia Allain profile image

          Virginia Allain 3 years ago from Central Florida

          I find it amazing how far they can jump and enjoy seeing them puff out their throat and do push-ups.

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          TanoCalvenoa 3 years ago

          Geckos are amazing. I had a friend with a huge blue gecko in a terrarium in his bedroom when I was in junior high school. I love the close-up above of the foot.

        • federico-biuso profile image

          federico-biuso 3 years ago

          Interesting lens about nice creatures... good!!

        • Snakesmum profile image

          Jean DAndrea 3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

          Geckos are great. We used to encourage them to come inside when we lived in the tropics. They love mosquitoes and flies. :-)

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          anonymous 3 years ago

          Cool little creatures, and who knew about those feets! LOL

        • Pat Goltz profile image
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          Pat Goltz 3 years ago

          @Diana Wenzel: I got stung in my bed twice, but fortunately not on the back. They hurt like the dickens! But when you can reach the spot, you can try to do something about it. You're right about creatures that are fearfully and wonderfully made. The more I learn about the adaptations of particular animals and plants, the more I am amazed.

        • Diana Wenzel profile image

          Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

          Yes, let's give credit where credit is due for all creatures that are fearfully and wonderfully made. Pretty impossible not to believe when considering the wonder of such intricate design. I wish I had known about geckos eating scorpions when I had them in my beach and country homes in Texas. I would have unleashed a few geckos as my bodyguards (after being stung in the middle of my back while lying in bed).

        • Pat Goltz profile image
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          Pat Goltz 3 years ago

          @DawnRae64: I will definitely pass on the word to our son, and thank you on his behalf!

        • DawnRae64 profile image

          Dawn 3 years ago from Maryland, USA

          very cool. I still thought it was suction cups. I am about 50 years behind the times i see! haha. fun lens. (and thank you to your son for serving.)

        • aesta1 profile image

          Mary Norton 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

          Coot feet. Learned something new. We have geckos in our garden when I was growing up.

        • LoriBeninger profile image

          LoriBeninger 3 years ago

          Very nice lens.

        • lesliesinclair profile image

          lesliesinclair 3 years ago

          When my grandma was 82 Mom took her for her one and only trip to Hawaii. Mom was cool about all the critters in the hotel room, and she got a kick out of the geckos, but she made sure that Grandma never saw one, so at night she would rush to turn the bathroom light on at Grandma's first stirring. Then, by the time Grandma got there the resident gecko would have darted into the dark somewhere.

        • SusanDeppner profile image

          Susan Deppner 3 years ago from Arkansas USA

          What a pretty page! I don't think I've ever seen a gecko, but we do have lizards here and see them often. In fact, our dog Daisy loves to look for lizards in a big rock pile in the back yard. That's the first place she heads when she goes out for her breaks. She even chases them up trees if she sees them first. They're so cute!

        • Nancy Hardin profile image

          Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

          This is so cool, I just love it! Thanks for sharing your great photos of the little visitor.