Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Madagascar Giant Day Gecko

Order: Squamata
Family: Gekkonidae
Genus/species:Phelsuma madagascariensis

  • Phelsuma madagascariensis grandis (Madagascar giant day gecko)
  • Phelsuma madagascariensis boehme
    (Boehme’s giant day gecko)
  • Phelsuma madagascariensis kochi
    (Koch’s giant day gecko)

The National Zoo exhibits the Madagascar giant day gecko,
P. madagascariensis grandis.

These are the largest species of the genus. Adults may reach up to 10 inches (25 cm). They are bright green in color with granular red mottling along the body with distinct red spots on their dorsal sides and a deep red line from the eye to the tip of the snout. Males can be recognized by their distinctly broader heads and are generally more colorful than females. Sexually mature males develop enlarged pores on their hind legs and produce a waxy substance resembling droplets. Sexually mature females may have calcium deposits on each side of the neck. Madagascar giant day geckos have toes with very well developed, broad, adhesive lamellae (thin flat scales) without claws that enable them to climb smooth surfaces. Their eyes are large with round pupils that are ringed in bright blue. The tail is of equal or greater length to the body and snout.

Day geckos are diurnal and arboreal. They tend to prefer relatively smooth areas to rest and sunbathe. Their bright colors indicate their diurnal habit of camouflaging with the tropical leaves as they wait for prey. They can be quarrelsome among one other. The name gecko probably derives from the calls of these lizards. The call is produced by clicking their broad tongue against the roof of their mouth. It sounds much like an injured frog.

Distribution and Habitat
This giant day gecko is found in Northern Madagascar, Seychelles, and smaller islands.

They live in the canopy trees of tropical rainforests and palms of coconut plantations.

Diet in the Wild
They mainly feed on various arthropods (crabs, insects, spiders, and scorpions) and occasionally some sweet fruit. They also like to lick honey. They obtain water from the condensation on leaves.

Zoo Diet
They are fed crickets twice a week.

Females generally lay two eggs several times a year. The female then holds the eggs with her hind legs until they become hard. The eggs require incubation for from 47 to 82 days. The young reach sexual maturity in one year. The young have a yellowish-green head but are brown about the neck and body.

Life Span
They may live about 15 years in captivity.

The giant day gecko is protected under CITES Appendix II. The majority of the day gecko species are not threatened, however there are a few that are considered threatened, and there is one species that is endangered.

Fun Facts
Geckos are the only lizards that can produce more than a hiss or other simple sounds. Their vocalizations range from squeaks and clicks to barks and croaks.