A medium-sized genus of about twenty or so species found predominantly in Africa, the Canary Islands and the Middle East, but with a few species in Europe and tropical America. This of course raises the question of how these geckos reached the Caribbean, since unlike, eg, Hemidactylus turcicus, which has remained fundamentally the same species wherever it has turned up around the world, the Tarentola species seem to have diverged in their respective areas. Members of this genus are medium-sized (about 6") with stout heads and bodies and fairly heavy scaling as opposed to the normal gecko tubercular scales. Interestingly, claws are found on the first, second and fifth toes but not on the third and fourth. Climbing pads are present on both feet and toes. Males are usually larger than females.
Most of the species are listed here for completeness and information only. The Tarentola species most commonly seen in the pet trade are T. mauritanica (a very popular species) and T. albigularis. Don't count on seeing too many of the others, especially the island species.
The taxonomy of the Tarentola geckos is in something of a state of flux, mainly concerning some of the Atlantic island species. Some regard the Tarentola species in this area as belonging to a different genus, Makariogecko. Others regard T. borneensis and T. gigas as the same, while the subspecies of T. caboverdianus seem to lack a nominate subspecies.
A word is in note here about the Atlantic distribution of these geckos. It will be noticed that many listed here are shown as belonging to the Canaries or the Cape Verde Islands. Both of these groups of islands are no more than a couple of hundred miles off Africa and are close to the Equator. The Canaries consist of six islands: (in order from east to west) Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Gomera and El Hierro, of varying geographical character. The Cape Verde Islands comprise a total of ten islands and five islets, making up two groups: the Barlayento (windward) islands in the north and the Sotavento (leeward) islands in the south. Click here for some useful information on the Cape Verde Islands.
NOTE: KKS in the text refers to Kästle, Kabisch and Schleich - see Bibliography.
|T. albertschwartzi||T. americana||T. angustimentalis, Canary Island Wall Gecko|
|T. annularis, Annulated Gecko||T. bischoffi||T. boehmi|
|T. boettgeri||T. borneensis||T. caboverdianus|
|T. darwini||T. delalandii, Canary Island Wall Gecko||T. deserta, Moorish Desert Gecko|
|T. ephippiata, Saddle Gecko||T. gigas||T. gomerensis, Gomeran Gecko|
|T. mauritanica, Moorish Wall Gecko||T. mindiae||T. neglecta, Neglected Gecko|
|T. parvicarinata||T. rudis|| |
|Scientific Name||Common Name||Distribution||Size||Notes|
|Tarentola albertschwartzi||Jamaican Giant Gecko||Jamaica||Genus based on one specimen found over a century ago and now quite possibly extinct: see EMBL database entry for details.|
|T. americana||Giant Gecko||Antilles, Cuba, Bahamas, Isla de Pinos||?"||The two subspecies of this gecko are variable in coloration, being grey, black or a shade of brown, sometimes with 4-5 faint brown transverse bands. The only information I have been able to find on them so far (from a useful Herpscope page) appears to indicate that there is nothing major to distinguish between the subspecies.|
|T. a. americana||Cuban Giant Gecko||Great Bahama Bank|
|T. a. warreni||Bahamian Giant Gecko||Cuba inc. Isla de Juventud|
|T. angustimentalis||Canary Island Wall Gecko [Sp: Perinquen Majorero]||Canary Islands (Lanzarote, Fuenteventura, Lobos, Graciosa, Montanà Clara, Alagranza & Roque del Este)||6-8"||The Canary Island Wall Gecko has noticeably long limbs and tail. It can be distinguished from the rest of the Canarian geckos by its dorsal tubercles, which are surrounded by smaller tubercles (the dorsal tubercles in the other species are isolated). It may also be distinguished from T. mauritanica by the smaller sized tubercles with a single keel. The basic overall colour is a light- to medium-gray with usually five darker lateral dorsal stripes and a light longitudinal stripe running across the back. The eyes are a metallic gold-brown colour. In keeping with the volcanic nature of the Canary Islands these geckos are completely terrestrial: Rogner says he only ever found them on or under piles of stones or lava outcrops. Salvador notes that they are rarely found in human buildings. Husbandry is similar to that for T. mauritanica, except that he recommends lightly moistening the hiding places and suggests a 4-6 week winter cooling period. Scalation details: Mental scale twice as wide as long. Nasal opening surrounded in front and on top by the supranasal, joined to the between the rostral and 1st supralabial. Rostral nearly twice as wide as high. 13-17 interorbitals. Throat: 31-45 scales. Dorsal scales: 10-12 rows of tubercles, usually with a single keel. 28-42 small tubercles along the length of the back: 95-140 scales around the centre of the dorsum. Salvador notes that the average number of dorsal scales decreases from north to south: 126.9 on Graciosa, 120.8 in Roque del Este, 116.9 in Lanzarote and 109.6 in Fuerteventura. Fingers: on the posterior feet there are 10-13 lamillae below the 1st finger, 15-18 below the 4th and 17-20 below the 5th. Breeding: mating takes place March-May, 1-2 eggs being laid May-July.|
|T. annularis||White-Spotted Wall Gecko||Much of N, C & E Africa, poss. W Africa and Saudi Arabia: introduced into USA||7-8"||Robust dark grey or brown gecko sometimes seen in the pet trade. It has a distinctive pattern of four white shoulder spots with dark borders arranged in a square [KKS]. See the Force 9 page for husbandry suggestions. In the wild T. annularis is fairly catholic in its habitat requirements, being found in rock faces, trees and buildings. KKS cite Klingelhöffer (1957) as observing no less than 40-50 specimens on the wall of a hut in the Sudan! They also note that specimens will occupy the same site for weeks and do not readily disperse to uncolonised areas. In some areas it is sympatric with T. ephippiata on baobabs or with Ptyodactylus ragazzi among rocks. Like T. mauritanica it can also be pugnacious, suggesting that in captivity no more than 1.2 of these geckos (possibly even 1.1) should be kept together. Apart from insects, they will also prey on small lizards, and will readily bite when handled. These geckos are vocal, especially males when courting or patrolling territory. Scalation details: Throat: 35-61 scales between the mental and the front of the ear. Dorsal scales: 12-14 rows of tubercles: ring of 137-194 small scales around the middle of the body. Dorsal tubercles smooth or only lightly keeled: no rosettes. Fingers: on the posterior feet there are 25-31 lamillae below the 5th finger. Breeding: males can be distinguished (comparatively) by thicker tail base. Mating season is end of March to end of August, during which time 2-8 clutches, of 1-2 eggs, may be laid. Courtship involves some vocalisation: see KKS for details. Hatchlings are comparatively small and lack the white shoulder spots.|
|T. a. annularis||Continuous range from Egypt to Sudan and Somalia: also found in SE Morocco, SW Algeria, Mauritania, Mali, N Cameroon, C African Republic, Chad|
|T. a. relicta||S Sudan|
|T. bischoffi||Selvagens Archipelago (Canary Islands)||?|
|T. boehmi||SW Morocco, poss. Mauritania||Medium-sized species described in 1984 by Joger. Most striking feature is darker ladder-shaped pattern on the light grey dorsum and the two dark zig-zag stripes on each side which form hexagonal fields on the flanks. The "ladder" in some specimens may however be reduced to just the "steps" or mere dark patches [KKS]. T. boehmi inhabits rocks and buildings. Scalation details: Nasal opening in touch with rostral. 15-17 interorbitals. Throat: 42-48 scales between the mental and the front of the ear. Dorsal scales: 133-177 scales around midtrunk. Middorsal tubercles flat, lateral tubercles surrounded by rosettes. Fingers: on the posterior feet there are 21-23 lamillae and scales below the 5th finger. Breeding: no information available.|
|T. boettgeri||Striped Canary Island Gecko||Canary Islands||4"||The two representatives of T. boettgeri are among the smallest of the Tarentola genus, the subspecies being slightly smaller than the nominate form. Both have heads that are narrower than the other Tarentola species. The nominate form can be distinguished by light pink colouring on its legs and tail, which is missing from the subspecies. Both have flecks on the tail, 6-7 in T. b. boettgeri and 4-6 in T. b. hierrensis. The scales on the back are more often lightly keeled in T. b. hierrensis than in T. b. boettgeri. T. b. hierrensis also has fewer rows of tubercles, lamillae below the 4th finger and intraorbitals. The fingers are relatively narrow. Characteristic of the species is the light groove running down the centre of the back. The eyes are a light bluish grey. In their natural habitat they are found in areas of rocky piles, low dry stone walls (especially those of old cisterns) and especially in gardens or plantations. Rogner recommends captive care as for T. angustimentalis. Scalation details: Mental scale twice as wide as long. Nasal opening surrounded by the 1st labial, rostral and three nasals. Rostral nearly twice as wide as high. 9 sublabials and 9-10 supralabials. 13-18 interorbitals: 4 spiny scales to the rear of the eyelid. Throat: 34-50 scales between the mental and the front of the ear. Dorsal scales: 13-19 rows of tubercles: ring of 99-140 scales around the centre of the dorsum. 24-33 tubercles between the front and hind limbs. The tubercles are smooth on the back and only lightly keeled in the sacral region. Fingers: relatively narrow: on the posterior feet there are 9-12 lamillae below the 1st finger, 13-17 below the 4th and 15-19 below the 5th. Breeding: no information available.|
|T. b. boettgeri||Canary Islands (Gran Canaria, El Hierro)|
|T. b. hierrensis
||Canary Islands (Selvagens Archipelago)|
|T. borneensis||Atlantic Ocean Islands||No information currently available.|
|T. b. borneensis||Atlantic Ocean Islands|
|T. b. protogigas||Atlantic Ocean Islands|
|T. caboverdianus||St Antao (Cape Verde Islands)||No other information available, including regarding the lack of a nominate subspecies.|
|T. c. nikolauensis|
|T. c. razianus||Razo||Distinguished by 3 dorsal crossbands.|
|T. c. substituta||S Vicente||Some specimens have a vivid pattern of 6 crossbands which themselves are formed by a number of markings at different angles. Others had straighter but less distinct crossbands.|
|T. darwini||St Tiago, Fogo, St Nicolau, Sal (Cape Verde Islands)||100- 106mm||Scalation details (from Joger, who examined 2 specimens and named this species): 31-35 dorsal tubercles in longitudinal row between hind margins of front and hind limbs. Dorsal scales: 110-119 at midbody. Coloration: uniform grey-brown, with reticulated spots on the side. Female had "diffuse crossbands" on the back. Reproduction: no information yet available.|
|T. delalandii||Canary Island Wall Gecko||Canary Islands (Tenerife, La Palma, Roques del Salmor off El Hierro) and Cape Verdi Islands||5-6"||Another Tarentola gecko bearing the name of "Canary Island Wall Gecko" but found on different islands from its namesake. Like T. angustimentalis the overall colour is grey-brown but is broken up by five indistinct transverse bands followed by five lighter blotches. Tubercular scales on the back and tail are also much lighter. The tail itself somewhat resembles an elongated carrot. In common with most if not all the Tarentola geckos in these islands, they are found around rock piles, dry stone walls and plantations. T. delalandii may also be found in or on buildings and at altitudes of up to 2,000 m. Rogner recommends keeping a single pair per vivarium under the same conditions as for T. angustimentalis. Scalation details: Nasal opening surrounded by the 1st labial, rostral and three nasals. Rostral nearly twice as wide as high. 7-10 sublabials and 7-11 supralabials. 13-18 interorbitals. Throat: 35-47 scales between the mental and the front of the ear. Dorsal scales: 13-16 rows of rounded off tubercles: ring of 103-142 scales around the centre of the dorsum. 20-28 tubercles between the front and hind limbs. The tubercles are lightly keeled in the centre of the dorsum and smooth along the sides. Fingers: wide: on the posterior feet there are 9-12 lamillae below the 1st finger, 14-17 below the 4th and 16-19 below the 5th. Breeding: little information available: Salvador notes that eggs have been found under stones and that hatchlings are observed in September.|
|T. deserti||Moorish Desert Gecko||N Africa (W Algeria through Libya)||7-7½"||Considered a subspecies of T. mauritanica until recently, but can be distinguished from the latter by its yellow iris. Otherwise very similar in appearance. T. deserti is found in palm oases, tree trunks and buildings: preferred building areas are ceilings of palm fronds covered with soil [KKS]. It is active by dusk and night but will bask during the day. Sympatric with T. mauritanica and T. neglecta. Both sexes are strictly territorial [KKS]. Prey is small insects. Scalation details: Nasal opening not in contact with rostral. 13-15 interorbitals. Throat: 45-59 scales. Dorsal scales: 131-180 scales around midtrunk. Dorsal tubercles pointed and sharply keeled, with sharp central keel and weak lateral ones, all surrounded by rosettes except 1-2 central rows. Dorsals smaller than ventrals and separated from the latter by ventrolateral edge and fold. Fingers: on the posterior feet there are 21-24 lamillae and scales below the 5th finger. Breeding: 4-6 clutches per year, usually of 2 eggs: sexual maturity reached in 3 years.|
|T. ephippiata||Saddle Gecko||N & W Africa as far east as Sudan||8"||Brown to greyish-brown species with dorsolateral dark patches that may join to form either "W" shaped markings or a "ladder" pattern. It was formerly assigned to T. delalandii and then T. annularis until 1984. The "saddle" in the Latin and common names arises from the dorsal marking formed from a fusion of the dark dorsolateral patches (KKS). Preferred habitat is the fissured bark of old Acacia trees and the dry oued beds at the flanks of a djebel (hill or mountain). While some populations are found in the mountains (eg Hoggar mtns), others are found in the Sahara or near the Atlantic coast. Hunting is partly diurnal. Apart from flying insects T. ephippiata also eats caterpillars. Scalation details: Nasal opening in contact with rostral. 10-14 (usually 11-13 [KKS]) interorbitals. 3 nasals, 8-10 supralabials, 7-8 infralabials. Throat: 28-37 scales. KKS note that between the mental and the gular scales there are 2-3 larger scale rows, a unique feature among the Tarentola of this region. Dorsal scales: 68-98 large scales around midbody. Dorsal tubercles rounded, smooth and flat or with a single keel; no rosettes present. Dorsals somewhat larger than ventrals but not clearly separated from the latter. Fingers: on the posterior feet there are 16-25 lamillae and scales below the 5th finger. Breeding: Eggs laid Dec-Mar: KKS note that in the Hoggar mtns the hatchlings emerge in summer and autumn.|
|T. e. ephippiata||Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Cameroon, Upper Volta, Mali, Chad|
|T. e. hoggarensis||N Niger, N Mali, Mauritania|
|T. e. nikolausi||NE Sudan|
|T. e. senegambiae||Senegal and Gambia|
|T. gigas||Razo (Cape Verde Islands)||There seems to be some confusion between this species and T. borneensis.|
|T. g. gigas|
|T. g. brancoensis|
|T. gomerensis||Gomera Gecko||Canary Islands (La Gomera)||5-6"||The Gomera Gecko differs somewhat from the other Canary Island species described above, being quite robust and having fairly wide toepads. It also seems to prefer plantations and moister microclimates when found under stones or around dry stone walls. It may be found at up to 3,000 ft. The dorsal colour is dark grey which is broken up by seven paler but inconspicuous transverse bands: there are white flecks on the tubercles on the back. The eye is silver grey as opposed to the more normal yellow-gold. The dorsal scales are lightly keeled and the tail somewhat spiky. Rogner recommends a larger terrarium but otherwise the same conditions as for T. angustimentalis for this species. Scalation details: Mental scale twice as wide as long. Nasal opening surrounded by the 1st labial, rostral and three nasals. Rostral nearly twice as wide as high. 8-11 sublabials and 9-13 supralabials. 14-19 interorbitals: 4-5 spiny scales to the rear of the eyelid. Throat: 36-48 scales between the mental and the front of the ear. Dorsal scales: 13-16 rows of tubercles: ring of 107-142 scales around the centre of the dorsum. 20-28 tubercles between the front and hind limbs. The tubercles are almost smooth in the centre of the dorsum but very keeled along the sides and at the base of the tail. Fingers: wide: on the posterior feet there are 9-12 lamillae below the 1st finger, 13-18 below the 4th and 17-22 below the 5th. Males lack retractable claws. Breeding: no information available.|
|T. mauritanica||Moorish Gecko (aka Mauritanian Gecko, Wall Gecko) [Sp: Salamanquesa Comun]||Iberia (except extreme north), coastal Dalmatia and Greece, Crete, NW Africa (Morocco to Egypt): introduced into the Canary Islands, Buenos Aires and Montevideo||6-8"||The largest of the European geckos and a popular terrarium subject. There are three subspecies. Males may make clicking noises: they are also highly aggressive, so no more than one should be kept per vivarium. Sexing is apparently difficult by physical characteristics and may be best judged by behaviour. Walls recommends a temperature range of 80-90 deg F. and fairly dry conditions. These geckos feed well on virtually any suitably-sized insects or other invertebrates, and are also quite pugnacious biters of humans. Virtually all captives are wild-caught: although inexpensive, every effort should be made to breed captive specimens. These geckos are prolific breeders in the wild, laying up to 15 clutches per year (KKS): however, KKS note that 18% of clutches contain only one egg, with young females exclusively laying only one egg per clutch. The breeding season lasts most of the year with a short break during winter, although at colder temperatures (eg in mountains or in Europe) the season may be shorter. KKS also note that this species can be cannibalistic towards its young, so removal of any hatchlings is strongly recommended. T. mauritanica only has claws on the 3rd and 4th finger of each foot. Ventral scales: hexagonal, flattened and lightly imbricated. Scalation details: Rostral scale twice as wide as long. Nasal opening situated between 1st supralabial and two nasals. 10 supralabials and 8-9 sublabials on each side. Large hexagonal mental. 2-3 submaxiliaries on each side touching the sublabials. The scales are granular on the back, tail and extremities. Dorsal scales: 10-14 rows of very keeled tubercles. Breeding: in captivity two clutches, of 3-6 eggs, are often laid, in June and August. [Salvador: this data apparently only refers to the Tenerife subspecies].|
|T. m. mauritanica||Maghreb and Mediterrean islands and coasts|
|T. m. fasicularis||SW Tunisia, Libya and Egypt|
|T. m. juliae||SW Morocco|
|T. m. pallida||SW Morocco||This subspecies is listed by EMBL database but not by KKS.|
|T. mindiae||Egypt||A desert dweller from the Quattara Depression and Siwa oasis.|
|T. neglecta||Neglected Gecko||Morocco to Tunisia S of Saharan Atlas||4½-5"||The smallest N African Tarentola species. It can be found in palm oases or arid regions with tree or bush growth and will climb in the latter. However, unlike many of its congenerics it shuns human habitations. Hibernation takes place from mid-November to mid-February. Activity is nocturnal. Scalation details: Nasal opening not in contact with rostral.Throat: 29-41 scales. Dorsal scales: 72-102 scales around midbody. Dorsal tubercles rounded, smooth and flat or with a single keel; no rosettes present. Dorsals somewhat smaller than ventrals but not clearly separated from the latter. Fingers: on the posterior feet there are 13-18 lamillae and scales below the 5th finger. Breeding: Eggs laid Dec-Mar: KKS note that in the Hoggar mtns the hatchlings emerge in summer and autumn.|
|T. n. neglecta||Algeria, Tunisia, W Libya|
|T. n. geyri||S Algeria|
|T. parvicarinata||W Mali, Sierra Leone, N Guinea, S Mauritania, E Senegal||See EMBL database listing re confusion with other species in this area.|
|T. rudis||Cape Verde Islands||Not much information available, but there appears to be some confusion over the classification of T. rudis with T. gigas and T. borneensis.|
|T. r. rudis|
|T. r. boavistensis||Islet of Sal Rey, Boa Vista||Smallish subspecies that differs from the others in a lower midbody scale count and higher number of orbital scales. Scalation details (from Joger): 9-10 lower labials, 10-11 upper labials, 19-22 interorbital scales. Nostril is surrounded by 1st labial, rostral and 3 nasals. Nasal scales are separated by 1 scale, with a second posterior to the first. 48 gular scales. Dorsal scales: 112-143 at midbody, 16 longitudinal rows of slightly keeled dorsal tubercles, midbody line free of tubercles. Other: lamellae under toes: 15 on 1st, 18 on 4th, 19-20 on 5th. Ear openings lack denticles. Coloration: light yellowish grey with yellowish mid-dorsal band and diffuse broad brown longitudinal lines on either side. Ventral surfaces are yellowish-white. Head has small dark spots and irregular streaks. Reproduction: no information yet available.|
|T. r. hartogi||Cima Island (Rhombos group)|
|T. r. maioensis||Maio|
|T. r. protogigas|| |
Click here for a caresheet for and photo of Tarentola mauritanica and here for the same for Tarentola annularis.
The information above was culled from a number of sources, including Mattison:
Echsen [Lizards], Rogner, Ulmer, 1992. Good general information on the Canarian Tarentola species.
Geckos: Keeping and Breeding Them in Captivity, Walls and Walls, TFH 1999. Has good general information on the husbandry of T. mauritanica.
Amphibians and Reptiles of North Africa, W Kästle, H H Schleich and K Kabisch, Koeltz Scientific Books, Germany 1996. Outstanding review of N African herpetofauna giving detailed account of each species. I gratefully acknowledge their details for the N African species.
Guia de campo de los anfibios y reptiles de la peninsula iberica, islas baleares y canarias [Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of the Iberian Peninsula, Balearic and Canary Islands], Alfredo Salvador, Madrid. ISBN: 84-86238-07-2. Excellent book covering all reptiles and amphibians in the aforementioned areas. The one drawback for English speakers is that the text is Spanish. This book is unfortunately now out of print, but well worth purchasing if you can get a second hand copy. Although comparatively old, still has good details on the animals, from which I have taken scalation details for the Canarian Tarentola species.
"On two Collections of Reptiles and Amphibians from the Cape Verde Islands, with Descriptions of three New Taxa", Ulrich Joger, Courier Forschungs-Institut Senckenburg, 1993. Dr Joger very kindly sent me this work, which is very useful for details of some of Cape Verde's geckos and skinks and attempts to clear up some of the confusion in particular regarding the T. borneensis, T. gigas and T. rudis species.
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