The Animal Answer Guide
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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This book had its birth in the encouragement I received from my mother to follow my herpetological interests. It was made possible by the training I received from my teachers and academic mentors, particularly Marvalee H. Wake, who waded through the 869 pages of gekkotan minutia that was my doctoral dissertation. It was informed...
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When I was growing upon New York’s Long Island in the 1960s and 1970s, “gecko” was hardly a household word, and even budding herpetologists had little familiarity with these exotic lizards. However, the grass is always greener on the other side. I, having snakes, turtles, frogs, and salamanders on my doorstep, of course, became fascinated with lizards, which (except ...
1. Introducing Geckos
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Geckos are a type of lizard. They are generally small-bodied, fully limbed, nocturnal predators that have good vision and vocal capabilities, usually lack movable eyelids, and often have adhesive pads on their toes. Lizards and snakes, along with amphisbaenians (worm lizards), constitute the order Squamata, or scaled...
2. Form and Function
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Geckos are mostly small-bodied lizards. The average gecko is only about 2.0–2.3 inches (50–60 millimeters) in head and body length, and less than 3 percent of geckos are larger than 5.5 inches (140 millimeters) in this dimension (Table 2.1). The largest living gecko is the New Caledonian Giant Gecko...
3. Gecko Colors
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Geckos come in almost all possible colors. The most common colors are shades of brown, often light and dark in some combination of spots, blotches, stripes, reticulations, or bands. Gray, olive green, and black are also found. These drab colors serve geckos well, as they blend in well with the tree trunks, stones...
4. Gecko Behavior
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Some gecko species are quite social and others live mostly solitary lives. At a minimum, geckos need to be social enough for males and females to find one another and to mate. All geckos use some combination of vocalizations, visual signaling, and chemical signaling to communicate with one another...
5. Gecko Ecology
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When sleeping or resting, geckos try to find places that will shelter them from potential predators and protect them from temperature extremes or bad weather. Terrestrial geckos usually shelter in burrows underground or beneath stones or fallen logs. Some, like the Australian Fat-tailed Gecko, Diplodactylus conspicillatus, use their tails to plug...
6. Reproduction and Development
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Most geckos have both male and female individuals, although there are some with only females. In geckos with two sexes there may be some sort of courtship in which the geckos use various signals to identify each other as (1) members of the same species, (2) members of opposite sexes, and (3) receptive to mating...
7. Foods and Feeding
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Nearly all geckos will eat almost any type of arthropod that they can overpower and ingest. Very tiny geckos, like the Dwarf Geckos Coleodactylus or Sphaerodactylus may eat springtails (collembolans) and mites, whereas large geckos may eat larger prey such as orthopterans, beetles, and scorpions. Although some geckos specialize...
8. Geckos and Humans
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This depends on what one wants out of a pet. Geckos do not show affection to humans. Most gecko species do not like to be handled and may autotomize (or break off) the tail, bite, or defecate if they feel threatened or are treated roughly. Most are too small and delicate to be handled by small children, and those that...
9. Gecko Problems (from a human viewpoint)
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Whether geckos are pests or not depends on one’s perspective. In areas of the world where geckos regularly come into houses, they are usually welcome. They eat insect pests, such as flies, mosquitoes, and moths as well as other invertebrates, like spiders, that many people do not like. However, the cost for these...
10. Human Problems (from a gecko’s viewpoint)
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Yes, a number of geckos are considered endangered. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) maintains a Red List of threatened species, which in 2011 included 55 geckos, or less than 4 percent of recognized species, in the endangered or critically endangered categories (Table 10.1). The majority of these include...
11. Geckos in Stories and Literature
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It is difficult to determine the role of the gecko in religion, as many societies did not or do not distinguish between types of lizards or recognize geckos as a distinctive type of lizard. One might expect that the Bible, having originated in the Middle East—an area of at least moderate gecko diversity—might say something...
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Although people are interested in geckos and study captives in their own homes for personal enjoyment, there are not many professional gecko biologists. This is partly because some parts of the world that have the most geckos tend not to have many researchers and partly because geckos, often being small and nocturnal...
Appendix A: Geckos of the World
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Appendix B: Organizations and Publications Devoted (in Part) to the Study of Geckos
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Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 35 color photos, 94 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: The Animal Answer Guides: Q&A for the Curious Naturalist