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Mossy Leaf-tail Gecko

Mossy Leaf-tail Gecko

Range:

This leaf-tailed gecko is endemic to Madagascar where it resides in humid forests in the east, and throughout humid forests in the northeast.

Habitat:

They are common on lichen-covered tree trunks three- to six-feet off the ground.

Characteristics:

Like all leaf-tailed geckos, this gecko species received its common name from the shape of its tail. It perhaps should be called a leaf-shaped gecko, since a flap of skin (known as a dermal flap) rings its entire body. This adaptation allows it to resemble a leaf or a chunk of bark. The lizard’s flat body is a mottled d brown, tan, light grey and black. It looks exactly like the mossy tree trunks upon which it rests. Its eyes are large and yellow with an elliptical pupil, perfect for spotting prey at night.

Mossy Leaf-tail Gecko
Behavior:

Active only at night, leaf-tailed geckos are almost impossible to find when the sun is up. They hide in plain sight, their cryptic coloring, flat profile, and motionless resting posture making them all but invisible to predators. They spend most of the daylight hours hanging vertically on tree trunks, head down, resting. During the night, they will venture from their daylight resting spots, and go off in search of prey.

Female leaf-tails eat large numbers of snails in the wild, to replenish the body calcium they loose in egg production. Males rarely eat snails when offered. This dietary preference is one of the few known occurrences of sexes of a species eating separate diets.

Reproduction:

Due to the secretive nature of the leaf-tailed gecko, little is known about the reproductive behaviors of this reptile. Researchers believe that the female lays 2 to 4 eggs. She probably has little to do with her offspring once having laid her eggs in the leaf litter on the forest floor.

In a zoological setting, if breeding is successful, eggs will be laid every 30 days and take 90 days to hatch.

Interesting Facts:

  • Leaf-tailed geckos have transparent scales covering their eyes instead of a movable eyelid. They keep their eyes clean by wiping them with their tongues.
  • Gecko toes are well-studied. Thier adhesive properties have inspired some incredible technology, such as stitch-free ways to seal wounds and sticky handheld paddles that may help soldiers scale walls someday.
  • Geckos can stick to surfaces because their bulbous toes are covered in hundreds of tiny microscopic hairs called setae. Each seta splits off into hundreds of even smaller bristles called spatulae. The tufts of small hairs get so close to the contours of walls and ceilings that the van der Waals force kicks in. This type of physical bond happens when electrons from the gecko hair molecules and electrons from the wall molecules interact with each other and create an electromagnetic attraction. A balance of forces acting on the gecko and the angle of its toe hairs contribute to the creature's sticking success. The system makes it possible for geckos to stick and unstick their feet so quickly that they can scurry across surfaces at 20 body lengths per second.

Conservation:
Mossy leaf-tail geckos are threatened by habitat loss and the illegal pet trade. Their population is considered stable, but it does have numerous conservation challenges to face. Loss of habitat is at the top of the list. Human-caused fires, conversion to agriculture, charcoal production, firewood collection and invasive plants have all taken their toll on the habitat. These threats, combined with Madagascar’s growing population, all play a role in the loss of habitat necessary for the geckos’ survival.

Likewise, illegal harvesting for the pet trade affects them. The gecko's size and cryptic coloration make it extremely popular with exotic pet owners from around the world. Despite the ban on international trade in this species, they are still collected in large numbers and smuggled out of Madagascar to support the pet trade.

The effort to save endangered species requires cooperation and support at the international, national, regional and individual levels. You can help. Support Utah’s Hogle Zoo and other conservation organizations. Share your concerns about wildlife with your local and state representatives.

If you are considering a lizard as a pet, do your homework. The Zoo does not recommend reptiles as pets for most people, as they require very specialized diets and environments, and often live a very long time. If you do choose to care for one, learn about its needs and be sure it was captive-bred before taking it home.

Did YOU Know?    
Since these geckos live in trees, they've evolved moss- and bark-colored skin, complete with "dermal flaps" that break up their outline.
Mossy Leaf-tail Gecko
Range
Class: reptiles
Order: Squamata
Family: Gekkonidae
Genus: Uroplatus
Species: sikorae
Average Lifespan: in the wild, the average lifespan is unknown; over five years in a Zoological institution
Wild Diet: insects, arthropods and gastropods
Predators: bird of prey, rats and snakes

This is an ssp animal

USFWS Status: under review
Where at the Zoo? Small Animal Building


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