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Leopard gecko

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Leopard gecko
Leopard gecko.jpg
Scientific Classification
Binomial name

Eublepharis macularius

The Leopard gecko is a species of gecko known by the scientific name Eublepharis macularius . It has a beautiful body design, being called a leopard gecko because of all of the spots on its body. The Leopard gecko lives about fifteen to twenty years if held in captivity. It starts out as a hatchling, but can take care of itself just about right after they hatch. The females are pregnant with the eggs for roughly one month, and then the eggs are laid. The geckos range from eastern Afghanistan to western India. God designed many defense mechanisms on the Leopard gecko, including the ability to shed their tail when needed. All in all, the Leopard gecko is a beautiful and interesting creature.

Body Design

Full body of a Leopard gecko

The leopard gecko has a beautiful body that has been clearly designed. The color on these animals can vary, but it usually consists of dark brownish spots, on top of a yellow to white looking background, which is the basis for their color. The tail is usually a white and black combination, with stripes running down the sides. These animals are usually eight to ten inches as an adult(quite large for geckos, normal sized geckos are sizeably smaller), but roughly two to three inches as hatchlings. Young leopard geckos usually have bands of color on their skin that later break up into splotches of color on their body as they grow older. The skin of leopard geckos looks very ragged and rough because of the bumpy appearance, but it is in reality very soft when touched. Males and females differ in appearance by mainly their size. Males are bigger, with a larger head and a fatter neck. Males also have a series of pre-anal pores formed in a v-shape, a wider and taller base, and swelling that is post anal. Both males and females have eyelids, which is also unique to leopard geckos.[2]

Leopard geckos are ectothermic, which means that they are cold-blooded. They are also nocturnal, so they will store up energy throughout the day and go out and hunt at night. These animals are able to climb because of their tiny nails that dig into the surface of what they are climbing. A very unique feature about some leopard geckos is that they shed their skin, and then they eat it afterwards. Although it it not figured out why the geckos do this, some theories include that they are getting rid of evidence, or clues, for predators to come and hunt them down. Another theory is that they eat their skin simply for protein, as they might not obtain much. Just like any other animal that sheds, before the Leopard gecko sheds its skin, the colors get very dull. Then, the skin falls off as flakes and the geckos eat it. [3]

Life Cycle

Newborn Eublepharis macularius hatchling

The leopard gecko is quite an interesting animal when it comes to its life cycle. The geckos are able to take care of themselves immediately after they hatch, and after about two days they are ready to watch out for themselves, look for predators, and hunt for themselves. These animals live around fifteen to twenty years when they are held in captivity. No one knows how long these animals live in the wild, but we do know that they live alone and not in packs. A very interesting fact about leopard geckos is that one can completely control the gender of the gecko simply by the temperature. If the egg(these animals are viviparous) is kept warm, the hatchling will be a male, but if the egg is kept cool, the hatchling will be a female. [4]These animals genders can be identified by checking the vent, the portion where the tail and body meet. If the pores on this section are more faint and dull, the animal is a female. Also, if there are two hermipenel bulges in the vent, the animal is a male.

The mating process of a Leopard gecko goes as follows. The male gecko should shake its tail throughout the air, while the female moves her tail along the ground. The male then licks the female to get ahold of her scent. After this, the male places his body parallel to the females body and inserts one of his hermipenes. After roughly a month, the female will lay one or two eggs. Other eggs will be laid throughout the mating season. After these eggs are laid, they should be incubated until the eggs hatch. Eggs will hatch normally about eight to twelve weeks after being laid. The gecko will first break its head out of the shell, stay there for about two to four hours, and then emerge completely. [5]

Ecology

Range map of the Leopard Gecko

Leopard geckos come from the rocky and dry grassy and desert regions of Pakistan, north-west India, south-Asian Afghanistan, and parts of Iran. In these habitats, winter temperatures can plunge to below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Since this is so cold, the geckos are forced to stay underground in burrows. While underground, they go into brumation, which is a type of semi-hibernation, where they live off of their fat reserves. Since these creatures are nocturnal, they stay hidden under rocks or any surface in order to escape the heat, and they reemerge at dusk for hunting.[6]

The leopard gecko ranges from eastern Afghanistan to western India. This shows that they can be found in many different areas, but the climates from those areas are relatively similar. Much is still to be studied about the Leopard gecko's ecology, but new information is appearing in the meantime.

Defense Mechanisms

Leopard geckos are often hunted by predators such as snakes, foxes, frogs, and other reptiles. Getting away from these predators can be tricky, but the Leopard gecko has a few defense mechanisms to hold them off. In the night, the gecko's hearing and sight are excellent, which can help them escape if they need to. They also are able to survive through taste and smell. They can also shed their skin to eliminate any scent markers for the hunter. Hissing when scared helps to ward off predators.

Another special defense mechanism for the Leopard gecko is the ability to shed their tail when captured, or whenever they need to. For instance, if the gecko is caught by their tail and they need to escape, they can shed their tail and run from the predator. This ability is called caudal autonomy. Once the tail is detached, the Leopard gecko can apparently make a faster getaway because the tail is large and heavy on their small body. However, after their tail is dropped, a new tail immediately starts to regenerate because it is needed for their survival.[6]

References

  1. Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius) Taxonomy "Herp Center Network". Web. February 10, 2013 (Date-of-access).
  2. Leopard gecko: stats and facts "Animal Planet" Web. Feb. 10, 2013 (Date-of-access).
  3. Leopard Gecko Care Sheet "Geckos etc." Web. Feb. 10, 2013 (date of access).
  4. Leopard Gecko info "Warrensburg" Web, Feb. 11, 2013 (Date-of-access)
  5. Leopard Gecko Reproduction "Secrets of Leopard Geckos" Web, Feb. 11, 2013 (Date-of-access)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Leopard gecko "Encyclopedia of Life" Web. Feb. 27, 2013(Date-of-access).