PEOPLE HAVE MANY QUESTIONS ABOUT GECKOS
PEOPLE HAVE MANY QUESTIONS ABOUT GECKOS&qu
by Whit Gibbons
The following 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 children?
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