HAVE MANY QUESTIONS ABOUT GECKOS
by Whit Gibbons
September 9, 2007
are comments and questions received recently about an exotic species of
lizard that is becoming more prevalent in many areas.
Q - We have
at least two pale-colored lizards that live beneath the wall lamp on the
outside of our apartment in Orlando. Someone told us they were geckos
but that they are not native to the United States. Are they harmful to
people or to our native wildlife?
A - The geckos
you have are an introduced species, probably the Mediterranean gecko,
which has become an established resident that thrives in many Florida
cities as well as some warm weather areas elsewhere. Other species of
introduced geckos also have been found in some Florida cities, especially
the Indo-Pacific gecko. Both are able to walk on vertical surfaces using
their large, adhesive toe pads. They have vertical pupils and, in contrast
to most other lizards, have no eyelids. They are typically out at night
and stay hidden during the day. A fun feature of them is that they make
a squeaking or barking sound, which is presumably some form of territorial
communication or to ward off potential predators.
The Mediterranean gecko is almost white with little bumps on the body
whereas the Indo-Pacific species is smooth. A native species of gecko,
the Florida reef gecko, is found on the Florida Keys. The Indo-Pacific
gecko is unisexual and parthenogenetic, which means there are no males
and the females lay eggs that are genetic replicas of themselves.
Geckos are completely harmless to humans and so far they have not been
noted to cause problems for any native species of lizard or other animal.
Ironically, the areas where they persist are around human habitation,
which means most of the native wildlife has already been affected. Geckos
eat insects and spiders. Some Southerners will probably appreciate that
they will eat roaches. Predictions by herpetologists are that geckos will
become more and more prevalent in the Coastal Plain of the Southeast.
Q - I live in Lake Charles LA and have a little house invader that I think
is a Mediterranean gecko based on the photographs on your website. We
have them living in the walls of our home. Do they lay eggs? I think they
are hatching. I have found small ones in my daughter's bed. Do I need
to be concerned about them being in our beds? Are they a good pet for
A - These
lizards are harmless and probably will make good pets if you keep them
warm, feed them insects, and keep a water bowl in the cage (make sure
the cage itself does not get wet). You may want to find a book or website
that discusses how to care for geckos and other lizards. They lay two
eggs at a time all summer long and hatch out continually during summer
and early fall. Several females will sometimes lay eggs hidden from view
but in the same area, a phenomenon called communal nesting.
Q. - I have
found, what I believe to be, a Mediterranean gecko in my boot. This is
the fourth or fifth gecko we have found in our office (Maxwell AFB, Montgomery,
AL) in the last three years. I noticed the range of the gecko on the map
on your website did not quite include the Montgomery area. I didn't know
if you might be interested in knowing that their range might be larger
than what was shown. Would it be okay to just put him outside in the bushes?
A - Thank
you for the range extension, which we will adjust on the map. Releasing
it outside will be fine, even near the house or a building.
Q. This summer
we were walking in downtown Charleston near the Battery, and I am sure
I saw a small gecko on the side of a restaurant. It could not have been
more than an inch or an inch and a half long. Do geckos live in Charleston?
A - Indeed these little lizards are now known from Charleston.
To find out
more about these geckos, go to www.uga.edu/srelherp/lizards/hemtur.htm
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