Species Profile: Tokay Gecko

Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko) in a forested region of Bali. Photo by John Dunbar

Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko) in a forested region of Bali. Photo by John Dunbar

Name: Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko)

Range: Northeast India to South China and as far southeast as Timor. Habitats are typically tropical rainforests, but will thrive in a variety of habitats including human settlements.

Diet: Insects and small vertebrates

Conservation Status: IUCN – Not yet assessed

The Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko) is one of the largest gecko species, ranking second only to the New Caledonian giant gecko (Rhacodactylus leachianus), measuring up to 50 cm and weighing up to 200 grams. There are two Subspecies of Tokay, Gekko gecko gecko has the widest distribution from northeast India to south China and as far south east as Timor, and Gekko gecko azhari occurs in Bangladesh. Gekko gecko gecko has two colour variants, a black spotted and red spotted form. The black spotted form is restricted to southern China and northern Vietnam while the red spotted form occupies the rest of the species distribution. They are also considered an invasive species in the southern United States, the Caribbean, Hawaii and Belize after being introduced during the 1980s and 1990s.

Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko) on Kanawa island in Komodo National Park. Photo by John Dunbar

Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko) on Kanawa island in Komodo National Park. Photo by John Dunbar

Unlike most lizards, geckos have repertoire of vocalizations, and Tokay geckos are no exception. They make a distinct call to locate mates during the breeding season. They range from small chirps to a slightly exaggerated ‘tok-ay’ sound. 

They are excellent climbers with a remarkable ability to adhere to the smoothest surfaces. This climbing ability has been extensively studied due to the fact that they are one of the heaviest geckos to adhere upside down on smooth surfaces. They achieve this without the use of glue, static electricity or suction. They have millions of little hairs on their feet (500,000 hairs per foot) with thousands of little pads called spatula (200 billionths of a meter wide) on the ends of each hair. A billion spatula on each foot interacting allows the gecko to adhere to surfaces by exploiting van der Waals forces.

Tokay geckos (Gekko gecko) on Kanawa island in Komodo National Park, cuing up at the outdoor light in the evening for bugs attracted to the lights. Photo by John Dunbar

Tokay geckos (Gekko gecko) on Kanawa island in Komodo National Park, queuing up at the outdoor light in the evening for bugs attracted to the lights. Photo by John Dunbar

JPAbout the author: John is an Irish herpetologist working at the Herpetarium in the Alistair Reid Venom Research Unit, at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. He is also a Science officer with the Herpetological Society of Ireland.

 

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