Leopard geckos are native to the dry, rocky regions of southeast Asia. They spend their day hiding under rocks (or in burrows) to escape the daytime heat. They are usually sighted at dusk, when they set out to hunt insects. They are faint yellow in color, with black markings, and measure 6 to 9 inches in length.
These beautiful creatures are selectively bred by dedicated breeders and thus, are available in different color morphs, ranging from dark yellow, tangerine, and stripes to patternless, lavender, and blizzard. Some captive specimen measure more than 11 inches in length.
The scientific name of leopard geckos is Eublepharis macularius, and they belong to the Eublepharidae sub-family. Their distinctive feature is the presence of eyelids. The eyelids help them keep their eyes clean and particle-free in the dusty habitat. They clean and moisten their eyes with their tongue, just like other lizards. They have small claws instead of toe pads and hence, they cannot climb vertically. The function of the claws is to provide extra traction on the ground. The claws also help them in digging. When these creatures are frightened or disturbed, they drop their tail to escape. This is referred to as caudal autotomy, wherein they constrict the muscles at the base of their tail, which causes the vertebrae to snap. This detaching and wriggling distracts the predator and allows the gecko to escape. The newly regenerated tail appears bulbous and inferior, with spots instead of lines.
These lizards are insectivorous and feed on insects, grubs, worms, and smaller lizards. They also feed on small snakes and baby mice; such instances though, are very rare.
Reproduction and Lifespan
These reptiles have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years in captivity. The longest lifespan ever recorded is 29 years! They become sexually mature between 10 and 14 months and their gender can be determined once they grow to about 5 inches. The males are larger than females and flaunt a distinct 'V'-shaped row of spots in front of the cloacal opening. They also have a noticeable bulge at the base of the tail. They breed from as early as January to as late as October.
When the male and female meet, the male shakes his tail and the female sways hers from side to side in response. The male then licks her for her scent and begins biting her from the lower body. He then places his body parallel to hers, places his hind leg over her tail, and inserts one of his hemipenes into her cloaca. Thirty days later, the female lays an egg or two with a leathery shell. Interestingly, the gender is determined by the incubation temperature that they are subjected to.
These lizards are easy to care for, provided you subject them to proper conditions. They rarely bite and are domesticated very easily. Your pet will have to be handled carefully for it to remain calm. Never hold it by its tail! Its tail is designed to break off rather easily as a part of its defense mechanism and the regenerated one alters the original look considerably. These lizards are relatively clean creatures. A 10-gallon aquarium is adequate for a single gecko. Never put two males together, as they will end up fighting. The temperature should be maintained at 85 °F to 90 °F during the daytime, while the same at night can dip to as low as 70 °F. Since the species is nocturnal, UV lighting is not necessary.