Saturday, November 3, 2012

Love in the Gecko

Geckoes are a group of warmth-loving lizards common in the tropics and less so in sub-tropical regions. 

About 1,500 species have been recorded. Most are nocturnal or crepuscular. 

Two species, the Moorish and the Turkish geckos are found in the Maltese islands. 

Like other geckoes these two species are able to climb up vertical walls. 

This unique ability is possible because of millions of extremely small fibres, known as setae, on their footpads which provide a very large surface area that creates a special force between the foot and the surface that is strong enough to hold their weight .

The Moorish is the largest of the two indigenous species. It is more likely to be seen in the countryside than in urban areas and although it is nocturnal and crepuscular it can also be seen during the day in bright sunshine.

This species is usually very shy and runs away if approached too closely but last week I managed to observe closely a pair on a dry stone wall during what I assumed was a form of courtship. 

Sometimes it is difficult to tell the two species apart without examining them closely but the ones I was observing  were more likely to be Moorish geckoes as they were active during the day and in a very rural area. 

Moorish geckoes are usually brownish grey or brown, their colouration changing with light intensity. During the night they are much darker than during the night.One of the geckoes I was observing was dark while the other was much lighter with creamy markings on its back.

The light-coloured gecko slowly approached the other which was sunbathing on a wall. While this was taking place one of them (I could not tell which) made a high pitched noise. I had heard the Turkish gecko make similar noises at night but I had never heard this call during the day.

It then positioned itself in front of the other. It then briefly touched its nose with that of the other. They then moved away together and hid themselves on the other side of the stone.

This article was published in The Times on 06.06.2012

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