Extensively updated February 2010: added species information and corrections, inc. removal of N. simpsoni.

A look at the

Subfamily DIPLODACTYLINAE - Diplodactyline Geckos: New Zealand and New Caledonia


Genus NAULTINUS - Naultinid/Tree Geckos

The Naultinus geckos are endemic to New Zealand. Coborn described this genus as only having two species, but Rod Rowland in his article on Naultinus elegans (see Bibliography at bottom of page) lists eight (taken from A Complete Guide to Scientific and Common Names of Reptiles and Amphibians of the World, Frank and Ramus, NG Pub. 1995). I have followed the latter system here. Naultinus geckos are all diurnal and green in colour, although markings (usually white blotches or white longitudinal stripes) vary, not only between the species but among individuals. Both species are very arboreal and have prehensile tails which are rarely lost. Mattison notes that in some of these habits they resemble the day geckos of Madagascar, in others the true chameleons of Africa. Naultinus geckos are viviparous, giving birth to two live young.

Naultinus populations, sadly, have been targeted by poachers in recent years, which threatens their long-term surviveability. It should go without saying that any decent herpetoculturist should have nothing to do with the traffic in illegally captured animals. Hopefully in years to come there will be some surplus of captive-bred animals that may be legally traded, but until then the viability of the species must remain a priority.

N. elegans, Common Green Gecko N. gemmeus, Jewelled Gecko N. grayii, Northland Green Gecko
N. manukanus, Marlborough Green Tree Gecko N. poecilochlorus, Lewis Pass Green Gecko N. rudis, Rough Green Gecko
N. stellatus, Nelson Green Gecko N. tuberculatus, West Coast Green Gecko  

Scientific name Common name Place of origin Size (max) Notes
N. elegans
Naultinus elegans ([North Island] Green Tree Gecko)

N. elegans
(North Island) Green Tree Gecko New Zealand (North Island, except Northland) 5½" N. elegans occurs in a number of forms, plain, spotted or striped, and occasionally overall lemon yellow, again with variable markings. The inside of the mouth is dark blue with a black tongue. Scrub is the favoured habitat: the geckos will often bask on the tops of bushes. At night or in bad weather they shelter under ground litter or loose bark. Mating takes place in September, but the young are not born for nearly a year: this is probably the longest gestation of any lizard.
N. e. elegans Auckland Green Gecko New Zealand (northern North Island)    
N. e. pentagonalis   New Zealand (Hampden) 8" No longer recognised subspecies of the above, larger and more robust but less variable in colour. It is found in the southern part of the range of N. elegans.
N. e. punctatus Wellington Green Gecko New Zealand (southern North Island)   Jewell considers this a full species more closely related to N. grayii.
N. e. sulphureus   New Zealand (Rotorua)   No longer recognised.
N. gemmeus South Island Tree Gecko/ Jewelled Gecko New Zealand (South Island, presumably!) ?  
N. grayii
Naultinus grayii (Gray's Tree Gecko)
Northland Green Gecko/Gray's Tree Gecko New Zealand (Northland, North Island) ? The species formerly known as N. simpsoni is now considered a synonym of this species: in captivity has similar requirements to N. elegans.
N. manukanus Marlborough Green Gecko New Zealand ? See the comment in the EMBL database entry about possible evolutionary interaction with N. rudis.
N. poecilochlorus Lewis Pass Green Gecko/ Central Tree Gecko New Zealand ? This gecko was described only in 1980.
N. rudis Rough Green Gecko/Natural Tree Gecko New Zealand ?  
N. stellatus Nelson Green Gecko, Starry Tree Gecko New Zealand ?  
N. tuberculatus West Coast Green Gecko /Warty Tree Gecko New Zealand ?  


The tuatara, lizards and frogs of New Zealand, Richard Sharell, William Collins, Auckland 1975. Taxonomy now rather outdated, and with fairly general details on a selection of the principal reptiles and amphibians, but still useful, and also has a section on Sphenodon and its place in Maori culture. The 1975 edition contains an addendum on Leiolopisma suteri (now Oligosoma suteri).

New Zealand Reptiles and Amphibians, Joan Robb, William Collins, Auckland 1980. All native skinks herein are assigned to Leiolopisma, but the book still gives handy details and very useful maps.

A Photographic Guide to Reptiles & Amphibians of New Zealand, Tony Jewell, New Holland 2008. Handy pocket-sized field guide to the country's herpetology.

Lizards of the World, Mattison

Breeding and Keeping Geckos, Coborn, TFH 1995 - a particularly valuable book for lesser known geckos, especially the Diplodactylines.

Keeping and Breeding Lizards, Mattison

Geckos: Keeping and Breeding Them in Captivity, Walls and Walls, TFH 1999.

Reptile & Amphibian Magazine, Jan-Feb 1996, has a good article by Rod Rowlands on the Green Tree Gecko of New Zealand.

I have not read the following so cannot comment on them, but these may also be useful for further reading:

New Zealand Frogs and Reptiles, Brian Gill and Tony Whitaker, Bateman Field Guide 2001.

New Zealand Lizards: An Annotated Bibliography, Tony Whitaker and Bruce Thomas, New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, 1989.


Reptiles of the Townsville Region has some good pictures of various of the above geckos.

Recently the Caitlins Blue-Eyed Gecko was discovered in forests in New Zealand after a prolonged scarcity.

A good concise site on New Zealand's native geckos.

Disturbing article by Tony Jewell on the recent decline of Naultinus populations.

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