Leopard Gecko: At present, having reptiles as pets are becoming an increasingly growing trade in the market. Reptiles such as geckos, lizards, pythons, and many more may not be your conventional house pets, but they are highly popular because of their low-maintenance requirements.
Among these reptiles, the common leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius) is perhaps one of the most popular. Moreover, they are considered to be the first-ever species of lizard to be domesticated.
The leopard gecko got its name from the black body spots that resemble that of the leopard’s.
The leopard gecko is more than that. Below is some interesting information that might even make you love and appreciate leopard geckos more. Let’s take a closer look.
Table of Contents
- Leopard Gecko Physical Appearance
- What is with the tail of Leopard Geckos?
- Leopard Gecko Lifespan
- What Do Leopard Geckos Eat?
- Where Do Leopard Geckos Live?
- Leopard Gecko Breeding and Reproduction
- Behavior and Body Language of Leopard Gecko
- Leopard Gecko Adaptation
- Ecological Importance of Leopard Geckos
Leopard Gecko Physical Appearance
Regarding physical appearance, leopard geckos are characterized by having brown, yellow, white, and leucistic (partial loss of pigmentation) coloration.
- Most of the time, their overall white or pale yellow coloration is marked by dark brown spots.
- Moreover, although their skin appears to be very rough because of these spots and bumps, their integument is very soft and smooth.
- Unlike other geckos, leopard geckos appear to be very unusual because of their presence of eyelids. Aside from that, they also lack the clinging toe pads. Because of this, they only climb on vertical surfaces.
- Leopard geckos exhibit sexual dimorphism as males are more heavily built than females. Males leopard geckos also have thicker necks and broader heads, wider tail bases, a V-shaped row of pre-anal pores, and larger post-anal swellings.
- When it comes to size, juvenile leopard geckos usually measure from 3 to 4 inches long.
- Adult male leopard geckos usually are 8 to 10 inches long, whereas their adult female counterparts are just 7 to 8 inches long. In some cases, adult males could reach up to nearly a foot.
What is with the tail of Leopard Geckos?
Generally, when geckos are attacked by their predators, their reaction would be to detach their tails from the main body.
- The tail will then move in order to get the attention of the predator while the gecko tries to get away from the situation (In some gecko species, it would be normal to return later to the site and eat the detached tail in order to retrieve the energy and nutrients found in the lost tissues.
- Interestingly, the tail of leopard geckos functions for the storage of fats (however, this is not exclusive for leopard geckos but other lizards as well). Because of this, the stored fat is at high risk of loss especially when the tail is regenerated.
- In this case, the occurrence of this phenomenon is extremely disadvantageous. According to studies, the regeneration of tails in young geckos occur at a rapid rate but unfortunately is not prioritized when it comes to energy allocation (even despite the reduction of resources).
- It was found out that these new tails in geckos appear to be larger than their former counterparts, and exhibit more massive amounts bones, muscles, and subcutaneous and inner fat than their original counterparts.
- In general, the regeneration of the tail affects the overall tissue mass and distribution within it. As alluded to earlier, body growth will be slowed down at the expense of tail growth. However, later in the gecko’s life cycle, the stored fat will be later used as an energy source for the body and reproductive growth.
Leopard Gecko Lifespan
One of the reasons why leopard geckos are considered to be the best pet reptile is their impressive longevity.
- When held captive, leopard geckos can live up to 15 to 20 years, and may even reach until 30 years.
- The lifespan is relatively longer than most reptiles of the similar size as they only live up to 2 to 3 years.
What Do Leopard Geckos Eat?
Like most reptiles, leopard geckos primarily feed on insects. These include crickets, silkworms, mealworms, waxworms, and super worms.
- In the wild, leopard geckos are not blessed with the abundance of available food.
- Just like humans, fat leopard geckos are thought to be healthy ones so. In captivity, most pet owners of leopard geckos tend to overfeed their pets. However, this practice is incorrect. Often, this leads to obesity which thus results in the reduction of reproductive potential, possible organ failure, or worse, death.
- Overweight and obese leopard geckos are characterized by having obvious bloated-looking bellies, abnormally fat caudal tails, and tend to be very inactive. Aside from these, they may also have fat deposition at the back of their forelimbs.
Where Do Leopard Geckos Live?
At present, a considerable number of the world’s total population of leopard geckos is held captive.
- Interestingly, leopard geckos were initially found in the broad strip of land that runs from Pakistan to Iraq. However, this does not mean that they are desert creatures; instead, it would be correct to say that they are being adapted to arid and dry climates in the desert.
- One of their most common adaptations includes hanging on to huge amounts of water as much as possible.
- Moreover, in place of excreting nitrogenous wastes in their urine, they merely excrete white crystals in the form of urates.
Leopard Gecko Breeding and Reproduction
Leopard geckos breed and reproduce like other reptiles in the Gekkonidae family.
- Typically, female leopard geckos become sexually mature after 9 to 10 months and weigh around 45 grams. Leopard geckos found in the northern parts of the equator start their breeding season in January and lasts until September.
- Their offspring hatch at the end of the year and the females will not lay eggs until April of the next season.
- During mating, the male leopard gecko first goes through his tail vibration routine (that sounds like a rattle). The female leopard gecko will stay still as the male grabs the skin of her neck and then tries to initiate the copulation process. The mating process runs for about three minutes.
Behavior and Body Language of Leopard Gecko
Like all reptiles, leopard geckos tend to express themselves through behavior, actions, and body languages. To name a few, these include climbing in surfaces, creating weird sounds, biting their tails, flipping their tongues, or digging substrates.
- While it is normal for pet geckos to climb their tanks, sometimes, it could also mean that they do not feel good. Because they are naturally nocturnal and be inactive during the day, this activity could mean that they feel ill or are uncomfortable with the temperature.
- Aside from climbing, leopard geckos also create high-pitched sounds or shrieks especially when they are frightened or shocked. This behavior is more common in juvenile geckos than in adults.
- The biting of tails among leopard geckos usually happen during mating. This behavior is exhibited by male geckos to show dominance over their mate.
- The flicking of their tongues is another interesting behavior of leopard geckos. By doing this, they become familiarized within their environment; thus allowing them to sense everything around them.
- Last but not the least is the digging behavior of geckos. Normally, this is practiced by pregnant female leopard geckos; however, males also do this sometimes. The reason behind this is to move the substrate (usually sand), so they can burrow themselves in it.
Leopard Gecko Adaptation
Although popular as pets, very little information is known about leopard geckos in their natural habitats. At present, their exact number is still unknown. Interestingly, their unique spots function for camouflage; thus making them almost invisible to their predators.
- During the day, they remain hidden in the environment and try to move away from the heat. Aside from that, leopard geckos, like other reptiles, exhibit ecdysis (shedding of old skin) to remove their scent.
- By doing so, they prevent themselves from being discovered by their predators.
Ecological Importance of Leopard Geckos
Like other geckos and reptiles, leopard geckos play an essential role in the maintenance of ecosystems.
- Since they feed on insects, they help control the growth of their populations; thus balancing the number of species.
- Aside from being part of the higher food chain, they also provide food for predators at higher trophic levels. Such ecological significance might be less felt by humans, but still, it is needed.
- Despite being ecologically important, the population of geckos in the wild is continuously being threatened by habitat loss, pollution, and exploitation. In some places in the world, geckos are being sold as exotic pets.
- Aside from that, they are also being sold for their rumored medicinal properties. Although still not scientifically-proven, some of their body parts are speculated to cure diseases like a simple cough, asthma, AIDS, cancer.
Leopard geckos are great to keep as pets, but we should also keep in mind that their existence, especially in the wild, is continuously being threatened by human activities.
Although people are becoming more aware of the threats from anthropogenic activities, only a few take actions to prevent their extinction from happening.
If we want future generations to witness the sights of geckos and other related species still, concrete actions are needed to prevent the loss of these kinds of species.
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-  – “The regenerated tail of juvenile leopard geckos (Gekkota: Eublepharidae: Eublepharis macularius) preferentially stores more fat than the original. – PubMed – NCBI”. Accessed September 20, 2018. Link.
-  – “Leopard Gecko Breeding”. Accessed September 20, 2018. Link.
-  – “Leopard Geckos » Information, Facts, & More”. Accessed September 20, 2018. Link.