Common gecko characteristics, reproduction, feeding

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Basil Manning
Common gecko characteristics, reproduction, feeding

The common gecko (Mauritanian tarentola) is a gecko of the Phyllodactylidae family of the order Squamata. The species was described by Linnaeus in 1758 with specimens from Mauritania.

It is the most common gecko in the Mediterranean region. The continental populations present in Europe appear to be expanding northwards as a consequence of global climate change..

Mauritanian tarentola in thermoregulation activity (Dorsal view) By user B. Schoenmakers at observed.org, a global biodiversity recording project. [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

The activity of T. mauritanica It is mainly nocturnal, similar to other species of geckos and geckos. On the other hand, it is also attributed a certain degree of daytime activity since they tend to sunbathe during the first hours of the morning..

The species can occupy rocky habitats, rock walls, steep areas, relatively humid forested areas, bushes, arid areas and deserts, and a great variety of human constructions such as ruins, houses, buildings, among others..

Being ectothermic animals, they can be observed sunning themselves during the day and become active during twilight and much of the night, when they feed and carry out their courtship and reproduction activities..

It can actively change the coloration of its body in response to a number of environmental characteristics not associated with thermoregulation, but rather as an anti-predatory and camouflage characteristic. In addition, they tend to have a dark coloration during the day and light at night..

Article index

  • 1 Characteristics of the common gecko
    • 1.1 Distribution
  • 2 Conservation status
  • 3 Taxonomy
  • 4 Playback
  • 5 Food
    • 5.1 Additional behaviors
  • 6 References

Characteristics of the common gecko

Light coloration of Tarentola mauritanica (side view) By Konstantinos Kalaentzis [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

This species of gecko can have a snout-vent length of up to 86 mm in the largest specimens and a length to the tip of the tail that can reach 190 mm. In this sense, the tail can represent more than 50% of the total length..

Males tend to have greater body development than females, which is more evident in the development of the head and the diameter of the eye. These differences come into play in courtship activities and those that involve fighting for territory as a result of sexual selection..

In its dorsal region it has a large number of bands of bulging granulations or smooth tubercles. They have a dorsoventrally flattened body plan. The head is separated from the body by a clearly differentiated neck and the eyes have a vertical pupil.

The fingers are laterally widened, dorsoventrally compressed, and have 12 rows of undivided adhesive lamellae. The nails are evident in at least two of the fingers in the males and in all in the case of the females.

Its dorsal coloration is grayish brown with a set of 5 transverse bands of irregular dark coloration. Ventrally it is cream colored.

Distribution

Distribution map of the common gecko (Tarentola mauritanica). Native animal (red), introduced animal (magenta). Source: Original: Carlos Bartolomé La HuertaNew version: Carnby / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

The species has a wide range of distribution that covers a large part of the countries that border the western Mediterranean region, occupying from habitats at sea level up to 2300 meters of elevation, this constituting its upper limit..

Its distribution in continental Europe includes Portugal, southern Spain, the coastal areas of Italy, France and Slovenia, the northern coast of Croatia, Greece and Albania. In the North African region, it is widely distributed in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and the Western Sahara.

It is also present in most of the Mediterranean islands, where it was probably introduced in the past, especially in those located to the north..

It is currently found on the island of Corsica (France), Crete (belonging to Greece), Sardinia, Sicily, Pantellaria and Lampedusa (Italy) and as introduced in most of the Balearic Islands and Tenerife (Spain) and Madeira (Portugal).

On the other hand, like other species of geckos, it has been introduced by human activity in other countries far from its native area such as Chile, Uruguay and the United States in which there are already viable and growing and expanding populations..

State of conservation

This species does not present significant threats because it has a wide range of distribution and that its populations are notably favored by the presence of man..

In addition to this, the species is capable of surviving in a wide range of conditions and habitats, so its estimated population is very high and its growth trend is stable, being cataloged by the IUCN under the category of “Least Concern” ( LC).

In general, due to their wide distribution, there is a very low probability that their numbers will decrease critically in the face of any threat or modification of the habitat. Their populations are favored by increasing urbanization.

Some populations in Egypt are under greater pressure due to their illegal trade as pets, increased removal of individuals from their habitats, and environmental degradation..

Taxonomy

Common gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)

Tarentola mauritanica (Linnaeus, 1758) originally described for Mauritania, it currently has three subspecies. These subspecies are juliae (Joger 1894) from Morocco, Mauritanian (Mauritania) and pallida (Geniez 1999) described for southwestern Morocco.

Recently the subspecies Tarentola mauritanica fascicularis with which there was a certain degree of controversy, it was elevated to full species level thanks to various genetic analyzes.

Many of the populations located in North Africa still present doubtful and deficient identifications and genetic analyzes show that the species has a paraphyletic origin..

On the other hand, these African populations present enormous genetic variability, made up of approximately four well-defined lineages. For this reason, it has been pointed out that they could represent new species of the genus Tarentola So what T. mauritanica constitutes a complex of species.

Similarly, it has been established from mtDNA that a large part of the existing populations on the European coasts of the Mediterranean come from a single haplotype from Morocco. The latter, as a product of recent colonizations from North Africa and perhaps due to the influence of man..

Common gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)

The existence of an Iberian population with a different lineage (endemic) suggests the existence of a species other than T. mauritanica.

Reproduction

This species emits very striking vocalizations that imply a complex communication system between individuals both in territoriality activities and in courtship in the reproductive season..

The reproductive period involves the spring season and early summer. Males often attract females through their songs. Once there is an interested female, the male bites her in the abdominal area to retain her and stimulate and guarantee copulation..

Females generally lay one to two eggs, under rocks, in crevices or fissures in rocks, and also in holes in trees. Those places with the ideal conditions usually host the spawning of dozens of females and more than 50 eggs..

During the reproductive season a healthy female can lay up to three clutches. The eggs hatch for around 40 days, however the incubation period varies depending on the temperature conditions. After the eggs hatch, the juveniles can measure between 40 and 60 mm in total length.

Feeding

Common gecko in its natural habitat By David Perez [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

In nature, the availability of prey in the habitats that this predator occupies (generally desert areas) is usually low. In these cases, this species uses active search strategies for food resources, including various invertebrates, mainly arthropods..

When they inhabit human constructions, they are usually observed perched around light sources, such as light bulbs, on the lookout for insects that are attracted to them, a strategy known as “sit and wait”. In this way the establishment of their populations are favored by the presence of man.

Their diet consists mainly of invertebrates. It is capable of consuming a wide variety of arthropods, including Lepidoptera, Coleoptera, various arachnids, Hymenoptera (mainly ants), Homoptera, Hemiptera, among other groups of insects..

In natural habitats, spiders, as well as larvae of various lepidopterans and beetles of the Carabidae family and other coleopterans such as those of the Curculionidae family are usually the most frequent prey and the best represented in terms of biomass in the diet..

In habitats related to man, the prey are frequently flying insects such as Lepidoptera, Diptera, Neuroptera and Hymenoptera (Formicidae), representing on average more than 35% of the diet..

Additional behaviors

In several cases, individuals of this species have been reported feeding on juvenile individuals of the same species. In the same way, it captures juveniles of other species such as lizards of the genus Podarcis (P. hispanica Y P lilfordi) and other geckos like Hemidactylus turcicus.

Each specimen generally has a foraging territory. Said territory is protected on several levels that include exhibition postures and aggressive attacks and special vocalizations to dislodge the invaders. Although they are usually tolerant of each other, most of the year during the breeding season the males are more aggressive towards each other..

Many male individuals can be seen with injuries to the maxillary arches, back of the head and forelimbs due to fighting for territory..

To avoid predation, they generally flee from their predators to their shelters or remain immobile, relying on their cryptic coloration with the environment. When captured, it can emit capture vocalizations that can confuse the predator and be released to flee..

They can also release their tail by autotomy when captured by a predator, however, when it is regenerated it is shorter and its scales are smoother..

References

  1. El Din, S. B. (2006). A Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Egypt. Oxford University Press.
  2. Harris, D. J., Batista, V., Lymberakis, P., & Carretero, M. A. (2004). Complex estimates of evolutionary relationships in Mauritanian tarentola (Reptilia: Gekkonidae) derived from mitochondrial DNA sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 30(3), 855-859
  3. Piorno, V., Martínez, L., & Fernández, J. A. (2017). A case of long-distance dispersal of man-mediated common geckos. Bulletin of the Spanish Herpetological Association, 28(1), 83-85.
  4. Rato, C., Carranza, S., Perera, A., Carretero, M. A., & Harris, D. J. (2010). Conflicting patterns of nucleotide diversity between mtDNA and nDNA in the Moorish gecko, Mauritanian tarentola. Molecular phylogenetics and evolution, 56(3), 962-971.
  5. Rato, C. (2015). The common gecko (Mauritanian tarentola) in the Iberian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands. Bulletin of the Spanish Herpetological Association, 26(2), 55-58.
  6. Uetz, P., Freed, P. & Hošek, J. (eds.) (2019) The Reptile Database reptile-database.org, accessed [accessed Oct 18, 2019]
  7. Zuffi, M. A., Sacchi, R., Pupin, F., & Cencetti, T. (2011). Sexual size and shape dimorphism in the Moorish gecko (Mauritanian tarentola, Gekkota, Phyllodactylidae). North-Western Journal of Zoology, 7(two).

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