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tokay gecko, common gecko
(named for the barking sound the Asian species makes)
Greenish gray lizard with gray and orange-brown spots covering body; body is slender with a large head; eyes are prominent in all species; broad fleshy toes with inner folds
25-30 cm (10-12 in.) average total body length; maximum length of 35 cm (14 in.)
Insects, baby birds, and small mammals such as nesting mice
Up to 20 years
Southeast Asia and Malayan Isles; northeast China, Indonesia, and Thailand
Arboreal; bushes, trees and on or around rocks
Nearly all geckos have a voice, ranging from a small squeak to the deafening whistles of the African whistling gecko.
The gecko sticks its eggs to walls or rocks near cracks or holes. More than one female may use the same 'nest'. The eggs are soft-shelled at first with a very sticky surface. They harden soon after they are laid.
Tokays have padded toes with sticking power, which has long been the obsession of scientists. However, knowing what research has found, it's not surprising. Each of its four feet has five toes. Each toe has fine hairs 1/10 mm long, packed at 5,000 hairs per sq mm (3,000,000 per sq inch). Each hair has 400-1,000 branches that end in a spatula-like structure about 1/50,000 inch long. Each hair is strong enough to support an ant's weight. One million hairs can support a small child!
Tokay Geckoes are solitary creatures, only encountering the opposite sex during the breeding season. They are territorial and will defend their space against intruders of the same species and of other species, ensuring less competition for food.
These geckoes can inflict severe bites if they are sufficiently threatened.
Their nose is used for breathing and also for detecting scents. A large number of sensory cells on a membrane in the nostrils and the Jacobson's organ help tokays to hunt. Their tongue is used to carry scent particles to the holes in their palate. These particles are then transported to the Jacobson's organ, which tells their brain about the environment (smell and taste).
They have folds of skin that prevent them from casting a shadow while resting on a tree. By opening up the skin fold completely, it allows them to blend in with the tree bark.
Another important feature of the tokay is its ability to cast off its tail in defense and later regenerate a new one. The cast off part will continue to move for several minutes, giving the gecko time to escape. It takes approximately three weeks for these geckoes to completely regenerate a new tail although it is usually never as long as the original tail.
In parts of Southeast Asia, tokays are regarded as bringers of luck, good fortune, and fertility.
ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION
Tokay geckos are important in controlling pest populations such as cockroaches and locusts. Unfortunately, because they are able to pack a powerful bite, most people do not want them around. Though they are not in immediately danger, habitat destruction and the pet trade will eventually take a toll on their populations.
Barlett, R.D. and Patricial P. Bartlett.
. Barron's, New York. 1995.
Halliday, Tim R., and Adler, Kraig.
The Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians
. New York: Equinox Books, 1986.
Flank, Lenny Jr.
. New York: Howell Book House, 1998.
Utah's Hogel Zoo. hoglezoo.org/reptiles/gecko.htm