Genus/species: Eublepharis macularius
Overall the leopard gecko reaches a length of about ten inches (25.4 cm), and gets its name from the leopard-like spots that cover the bodies of adult animals. Baby leopard geckos hatch with dark transverse bands, which lighten as they grow into the spotted adults. Their general background color is yellow and lavender, although a number of new color phases have arisen through captive breeding. Leopard geckos are members of the Subfamily Eublepharinae, or the eye-lidded geckos. Many geckos lack eyelids, but the leopard geckos' are movable, which allow them to blink and close their eyes while sleeping. Toe pads, which other geckos use to climb vertical walls and glass aquaria, are not present in the leopard gecko. They have tiny claws on the end of their toes.
Like many lizards, the leopard gecko has a tail that breaks off readily when grabbed by a predator. The tail breaks at a crack in the vertebra and the surrounding muscles are so arranged that they separate neatly and instantly. A muscle closes around the artery in the tail at the point of the break and prevents undue blood loss. Usually a new tail is regenerated. This permits the gecko to get away if attacked. They do leave a valuable resource behind; the tail is used as a fat storage reservoir for lean periods.
One of the most notable traits about leopard geckos, which has led to their great popularity, is their unusually gentle disposition. It takes a significant amount of provoking before a leopard gecko will bite. Leopard geckos are also not as vocal as other geckos, such as the Tokay geckos.
Distribution and Habitat
Leopard geckos are found in Afghanistan, northwestern India, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq.
Leopard geckos inhabit arid regions, particularly rocky deserts and sparse grasslands. They avoid sandy deserts. They are strictly nocturnal, keeping out of the heat of the day, and emerging at night from holes and crevices to hunt for food. Leopard geckos are seldom found off of the ground.
Diet in the Wild
In the wild they eat other lizards, insects, spiders, and scorpions. (Leopard geckos are unaffected by scorpion stings.)
Leopard geckos reach sexual maturity in 16 to 25 months. Their breeding season runs from January through September. Young females lay one to three clutches of one to two eggs each in their first breeding. With age, they can produce up to five clutches per breeding season.
They may live about 20 years in captivity.
They are neither threatened nor endangered.
Leopard geckos differ from the arboreal geckos in that they have eyelids. The genus name, Eublepharis, from the Greek and means "good eyelid." The species name, macularius, isis from Latin and refers to the spots.
The leopard gecko excretes nitrogenous waste in solid crystal form as uric acid instead of as urine.
With eyesight comparable to a cat's, geckos can see better than any other lizard whose vision has been studied.