I’ve never owned a reptile before, I’ve always been much more of a mammal person. Recently, however, our house inherited a gecko that had been left at a friend’s house. He is super cute, and since I know very little about geckos, I thought I’d blog about our little mascot’s wild cousins, leopard geckos.

Wild leopard geckos are found in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and northwestern India. They prefer to live in rocky deserts or grasslands. Geckos are crepuscular, staying in their burrows during the day and coming out at dusk and dawn to hunt.

A young leopard gecko. Isn’t it cute? Image by Pop77o7, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Leopard geckos can get relatively large, compared to other gecko species. They can grow up to 20 to 27 cm, and weigh up to 65 grams. They are usually yellow with black spots, and a white stomach. Wild geckos are less brightly coloured than those kept as pets. Leopard geckos do not have the sticky foot structure other gecko species possess; instead they have clawed feet. This allows them to easily climb twigs and rocks, though they cannot scale smooth surfaces.

Leopard geckos have excellent sight and hearing. They use these senses to locate prey, which consist of a wide variety of invertebrates, including spiders, scorpions, centipedes and beetles. Their keen senses also help leopard geckos avoid predators, such as snakes and foxes. If they are attacked, leopard geckos can detach their tails, allowing them to make a quick getaway as the tail continues to wiggle and distract the predator.

Geckos do not give up their tails lightly. They are used mainly for fat storage, and to lose that amount of stored up nutrients is very costly for the geckos. The tails start growing back right away, though they will never look the same as the original tail, being shorter, fatter, and smoother.

A leopard gecko that lost its tail. You can see the new tail is very different in colour from the rest of the gecko. Image by Fritz Geller-Grimm, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Breeding in leopard geckos normally occurs in the summer months. Females are able to store sperm, and so only need to mate once or twice for the entire season. Eggs are laid in clutches of two, with females laying six to eight clutches a year. The eggs hatch after 45-53 days, and the young are sexually mature at 18 months of age. The sex of the young geckos is influenced by temperature, with more females being born at cooler temperatures and very warm temperatures. The very warm females are more aggressive than normal females, and are often infertile, so if you’re trying to breed geckos, don’t heat the eggs too much!

I have no problem with people keeping reptiles and other such animals as pets, as long as they are captive-bred animals, are properly cared for, and are not dangerous. Thankfully, leopard geckos are so popular in the pet trade that almost all are captive-bred. So I can happily enjoy our super cute new family member, Mr. Gecko Moria!

Our gecko, Moria. He’s super adorable!

Cover image by George Chernilevsky, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons