Tokay gecko

Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Gekkonidae
Genus and Species: Gekko gecko
  • Lavender purple lizard with orange spots. The pupil is a thin slit and the feet are pads and resemble flat sausages.
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Tokay gecko

One of the largest living species of gecko, tokay geckos are native to Asia and the Indo-Australian Archipelago, where they often live in human habitations, eliminating unwanted insect pests. They perform the same service in the Small Mammal House, where they range freely.

Physical Description

Tokay geckos have cylindrical, squat, somewhat flattened bodies. The limbs are well-defined and uniformly developed, and their head is large and set off from the neck. Their large eyes have vertically-slit pupils and eyelids that are fused together and transparent.

They have remains of a rudimentary third eye on the top of their head, which is believed to coordinate their activity to light conditions.

Tokay geckos' ears are visible as small holes on both sides of the head, and you can actually see straight through their heads through their ears.

Their toes have fine setae on them, allowing them to cling to vertical and over-hanging surfaces and move at fast speeds.

They have soft, granular skin that feels velvety to the touch. The coloration of tokay geckos is very important to its lifestyle; the skin is usually gray with several brownish-red to bright red spots and flecks, but these geckos have the ability to lighten or darken the coloring of their skin. They usually do so in order to blend in or to be less noticeable to other animals.

There are obvious male and female differences in tokay geckos. Males are more brightly colored and slightly larger than females.

Folds of skin prevent tokay geckos from casting a shadow while resting on a tree. They open up the skin fold completely and this allows them to blend in with the tree bark.

They can cast off their tails in defense and regenerate a new one. The part of the tail that has been cast off will continue to move violently for several minutes until it slows down and stops, thus giving the individual time to escape. The tail has several sections on it where it can break off. It takes about three weeks for to completely regenerate a new tail, although it is usually never as long as the original.

Size

Tokay geckos are one of the largest geckos alive today, growing to lengths of around 14 inches (35 centimeters).

Native Habitat

Tokay geckos are found from northeast India to the Indo-Australian Archipelago. They live in tropical rain forests, where they live on cliffs and in trees.

They can travel on floating debris to colonize tropical islands. Tokays form mutualistic relationships with humans in tropical areas: humans provide shelter and tokays provide insect extermination. They can be found doing just this at the Zoo's Small Mammal House.

Communication

Tokay geckos communicate vocally, using calls to find members of the opposite sex during the breeding season, and as a means of defense (they emit a hissing or croaking noise when being attacked).

Food/Eating Habits

Tokay geckos are insectivorous, and eat pests such as cockroaches and locusts.

They use the large number of sensory cells on a membrane in the nostrils, as well as their Jacobson's organ to detect scents. Tokay geckos use their tongues to carry scent particles to their Jacobson's organ and "taste" the air.

Tokay geckos are not fed a Zoo diet, but forage for and eat roaches and other insects in the Small Mammal House.

Social Structure

Tokay geckos are solitary creatures; they only encounter the opposite sex during the breeding season. They will defend their territory against intruders, ensuring less competition for food. Males generally guard the territory, though sometimes females will. These geckos can inflict severe bites if they are sufficiently threatened.

Reproduction and Development

Around mating season, tokay geckos release a liquid from their femoral pores on their hind legs which is thought to attract a mate or to make copulation easier. Breeding season lasts about four to five months. Males mate frequently with females, often grasping them with their mouths. During the breeding period, females lay eggs every month.

In order to attract a mate, males have a call that can be heard over a wide area. This loud "to-kay" sound is repeated multiple times; this sound gives these geckos their name. The male approaches the female from the rear and they move side to side while he holds her in place with his teeth, biting her in the neck region. The female looks for a laying site and when she finds the right one, she affixes the hard-shelled eggs (oval-shaped; anywhere from 3 mm to 45 mm) to a solid foundation where they are guarded by both parents until they hatch.

Hatchlings are two to three inches (5 to 7.5 centimeters) long. Upon hatching, the young eat their outer covering of skin. They are sexually mature in about one year. Hatchlings are aggressive and will readily bite, just like their parents.