Updated 3 April 2013: updated Introduction with updates to the classification of geckos.

A look at the

GECKOS

Infraorder GEKKOTA



Introduction

The geckos constitute the largest family of lizards after the skinks, with over 1,000 species (numbers differ according to source). They are found virtually everywhere on the planet except the polar regions, and have proved successful stowaways and rafters, having been transported along with man to places often far from their point of origin. Part of their success is doubtlessly due to their generally small size: the largest is only 14", while the mean size is about 6-8" and some species are even half or less than that in length.

Apart from their small size, geckos are also invariably characterised by their soft skin, which instead of the hard overlapping scales of most lizards is usually covered to a greater or lesser degree in tubercles. The tails of geckos tend also to be soft and often rather round or fat, as they tend to store reserves of fat and vital nutrients in them. In many species these tails are often dropped and regenerated. Gecko feet are often adapted for climbing up vertical surfaces and even across ceilings, thanks to a system of minute lamellae, or hair-like structures, which find the microscopic imperfections in a surface, even glass, and lodge in it. Most geckos also possess small claws. Most geckos lack eyelids and have a brille over the eye instead, which is shed in the same way as a snake's eye covering when the rest of the skin is discarded. Apart from the obvious Day Geckos, nearly all geckos are nocturnal by nature. Virtually all are insectivorous feeders.

Classification

In recent years the traditional classification of geckos has been changed yet again (2011). The traditional classification ran roughly as follows:

Eublepharid Geckos - "Eyelid" Geckos

including Leopard- and Fat-Tailed Geckos

Gekkoninae: "Typical" geckos

Tokays, Mediterranean- and House Geckos, and many more

Sphaerodactyline Geckos -

the diminutive New World geckos. By the year 2000 most authorities now considered these to be a part of the Gekkoninae instead.

Diplodactyline Geckos

the unusual geckos of Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia.



The new classification partly breaks up the Gekkoninae and Diplodactyline geckos as well as reinstating the Sphaerodactylidae (but with added species) and includes the Pygopod lizards, which have long been known to be closely related to the geckos despite their elongate form and limblessness. So the new order runs as follows:

Eublepharidae - "Eyelid" Geckos

including Leopard- and Fat-Tailed Geckos, this family remaining basically unchanged

Gekkonidae: "Typical" geckos

the “typical” geckos, Tokays, Mediterranean- and House Geckos, but minus those genera removed to the Phyllodactylidae

Sphaerodactylidae: Ball-Toed Geckos

the original New World geckos with several New- and Old World genera added, including Teratoscincus

Diplodactylidae Geckos

the unusual geckos of Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia, including several new genera

Carphodactylidae

7 genera of Australian geckos taken from Diplodactylidae

Phyllodactylidae

The “leaf-toed” geckos distributed in both Old and New World (except Australia) and lumped together on the basis of molecular analysis

Pygopodidae

The limbless pygopodid lizards of Australia and New Guinea



As finding individual genera within these families will now be harder, within the next few weeks we hope to put up an alphabetical list of gecko genera from all the families. Alternatively, go to the Site Index to search for species. 

Links

The Global Gecko Association has a well-organised website with care sheets, captive care information and photographs. They also promote conservation, study in the wild and academic research, and members receive a twice-yearly journal as well as regular newsletters.

Another outstanding gecko site is www.uroplatus.com, run by Boris Klusmeyer. Apart from taxonomic news, literature sources and the like, Boris has an outstanding collection of gecko photographs. Please ask him before you use any, though

Friedrich-Wilhelm Henkel's www.nephurus.org is another good German site and subtitled, "Everything you ever wanted to know about geckos".

Vivarium Herpetoculture specialise in the captive care and breeding of the lesser-known Australian geckos and have some excellent pictures. Expect their website to be expanded soon.

The German site Repti-Box has a very useful summary table of information about many species of gecko contained in these pages.

Index of Gecko-related articles from herpetological magazines

For a fascinating insight into geckos' "adhesive" feet and some scientific observations made on them, go to the very interesting Science & Technology News Network article.



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