Saturday, January 13, 2007

Two Esperance Geckos, one agile, one not!

What is the first thing you notice about a gecko?

For me it was their large unblinking unaggressive eyes, making them very cute looking. There are more than 100 Australian species, but in Esperance only three are recorded and I have never seen one of them. Of the two I do know, one is noticeably common possibly because it will also take up residence in your home, or take advantage of outside lights that attract insects. This human friendly species is the Marbled Gecko, Christinus marmoratus, which has learnt to take advantage of our energy guzzling activities.

However the Marbled Gecko and other species usually live under loose bark or under stones, some even live in spiders burrows. So maybe you can see why our houses look appealing to some.

They dine on a wide range of fare like insects, spiders and scorpions, but they also will partake of fruit, nectar and sap. Some large species will even eat smaller geckos. However, not all geckos have it all their own way. I have found geckos entrapped in the tangled webs of Redback Spiders, which I understand will also eat them.

You can see by the photos below how dexterous the Marbled Gecko is, being able to firmly grasp objects, or stick like glue to smooth vertical surfaces, it will even use its tail for additional traction.

Marbled Gecko, Christinus marmoratus

The Marbled Gecko have an interesting color variation, namely (with some animals) red patches on the tail. However most geckos in my area are without these markings, but it has been noted by Herpetologists that they are particularly common on juveniles. I have seen many juveniles and adults without any noticeable tail markings, so personally I am not convinced that they had them as juveniles or lose them at maturity, but more likely a color variation that for some reason, is only applicable to a minority of animals.

Just because geckos appear cute and cuddly, it does not mean that they cannot get very upset over territory and femme fatale issues with other geckos. Here one had latched onto the neck of the other and like a pit-bull had no intention of letting go.

The other gecko!

The second Esperance species is a very different animal; it is much shyer, prefers not to climb and has brightly speckled eyes, which often betray an inner sense of its own fatality. This is the Soft Spiny-tailed Gecko, Strophurus spinigerus subspecies inornatus.

As you can see, climbing smooth vertical surfaces is not regarded very highly by this species.

Have a look at the speckled eyes and the inner realisation that this might be the last photo it may ever have to endure.

Soft Spiny-tailed Gecko, Strophurus spinigerus subspecies inornatus

But despite the cute face and worried look, when it turns away you can see the remnants of a much bigger and more terrifying ancestor.

So next time you see a cute little gecko with big eyes and a worried expression on its face, remember if you were only a couple of centimetres high, it would probably eat you. However, except for science fiction, this is not likely to happen, instead they will do you the favour by eating all your nasty creepy crawlies.


Evan said...

Very cool. I have only seen a few geckos ever, as I look for frogs when out in the bush, and they were never in my home.

When I go out west, I will look for them, as they are hopefully much more numerous. But they seem to have almost dissapeared where I live. A friend of my mum's (who only lives 30km from my mum) has them running all through her house, but no-one else in the area does. Quite strange.

Great photos,


Esperance Blog said...

Hi Evan, I'm pleased you liked it. If you want to find geckos, you must look for them at night. Check out where moths and other insects are attracted to your house lights. I would be surprised if you don't have any.

Good hunting

Evan said...

Hey Jack,

I was always out at night, as I a was looking for frogs a lot. To look for Green Tree Frogs (Litoria caerulea), I would be looking around the house near the lights. The problem was that it is an 110 year old house, which is surrounded by farm land for a couple kilometres (very little bush), and has probably had cats for most of this time.

We got water dragons, blue-tongues, water skinks, garden skins, red-belly black snakes, brown snakes, eastern long-neck turtles, bandicoots and 12 species of frog, but never geckos.

I will look around people's houses that live near the bush now though, hopefully others have them.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jack,

popped in for another look, great stuff once again. One question I have is what reference do you use for your herpatological work? The best book I have is Cogger as I mentioned previously, although it was published in 1975 and obviously there have been many revisions made on various genera since then. For example Christinus marmoratus is listed as Phyllodactylus marmoratus in my reference. Noticed same the other day in the Scribbly thread about dragons - the Mountain Dragon in Tassie has undergone several revisions and name changes since my book was written (although it is still an excellent reference for ID purposes, I just need to make sure that the name I come up with is the most up to date)


Esperance Blog said...

Wow Evan, your 110 year old house seems to have more wildlife than most bush blocks. :)

I guess geckos will turn up one day, just keep up the enthusiasm so you can welcome them.

All the best

Esperance Blog said...

Hi Woollybutt,

I also have Cogger's book on reptiles, but as you say it is now a little out of date. This is not only with name changes, but also regards new species. Nevertheless an excellent book to seek additional information and general reference.

Currently I mainly use 'A Complete Guide to Reptiles of Australia' by Steve Wilson and Gerry Swan. Unlike Cogger, there are no amphibians, so I use another book(exclusively WA species) for those.


Wendy said...

Thank you for this fascinating information...I have images of the little geckos that live in my home near Busselton and was seeking further facts on them before uploading photographs. I appreciate reading and viewing your work.

WA said...

Thanks Wendy, some nice photos on your blog too.