Coming from Southern Caledonia, the crested gecko goes by many different names. There’s the crested gecko, the New Caledonian crested gecko, eyelash gecko and the Guichenot giant gecko. While the exact origin and date of the discovery of this species is debated upon, they were almost though to be extinct until 1994 when they were rediscovered. Currently, the crested geckos are fairly popular in the pet trade industry because they’re currently being protected but aren’t in danger of being called endangered.
The Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna is currently overseeing all of the illegal trading and management of this species to prevent them from becoming endangered. As early as 1866, most Zoologists believe Alphone Guichenot was the first to describe this species. The species was described as the Correlophus ciliates in an article that was titled (Notice sur un nouveau genre de sauriens de la famille des geckotiens du Museum de Paris).
Later, the original name was redacted and it was promptly named Rhacodactylus ciliatus. During recent research and studies, zoologists have indicated that R. ciliatus and R. sarasinorum are not well related to other giant geckos. As a result of this study, these two species were moved back to the Correlophus genus.
In Latin, the name ciliatus means eyelash or fringe. This refers to the crest that can be seen on the skin that hovers over the gecko’s eyes. It marks the resemblance of an eyelash, more than any other species of gecko.
Physical Characteristics of the Crested Gecko
Resting above the eyes of a crested gecko, sits hairy little projections that closely resemble eyelashes. The head would best be described as a wedge shape and it features a crest that runs from the eye to the tail. When debris gets into the eyes of a crested gecko, they simply use their tongue as they lack proper eyelids to help shield them from debris and to help moisture their eyes.
On the feet of crested gecko, specifically on the toes and on their tail, there are small hairs that are known as setae. Inside of a single setae, there are hundreds of smaller little hairs (that are only approximately 200 nanometers on diameter) called spatulae. There are a lot of theories on how many benefits this gives a crested gecko but most zoologists believe that they’re used to help scale and climb walls. A lot of solid surfaces allow the tiny setae hairs to latch on and let them climb with ease.
The toes of the crested gecko also feature tiny like claws which will help the gecko climb as well by digging into softer surfaces and providing a firm grip. While the tail of the crested gecko can be shed to help ward off or confuse predators, their tails will not grow back unlike the case for most gecko families where tails do grow back.
When examining the color patterns of the crested gecko, they don’t have just one natural color that they like to stick to. It’s not uncommon to have various shades of brown, red, grey, orange or some shades in between. Crested gecko are often seen with straight stripes on them, sometimes they can feature tiger stripes and have spots on them as well. Their colors will be brighter and a bit clearer to see in the night time.
The crested gecko can be distinguished fairly easy by their head structure as they have a very unique structural morph in their head size. If the gecko has a head that’s less than 1.3 times the width, it can be considered to be a crested crown gecko. The crests of the gecko will vary in size as some have been found to have crests that cover their entire body from head to toe and some have been found to lack a crest on their entire side.
Distribution of the Crested Gecko
The crested gecko is commonly found in New Caledonia in the South Province. There are three notable populations of the gecko: one is on the Isle of Pines, one is on the island of Grande Terre and is notably found around the blue river. This river is found just north of Mount Dzumac and has a protected provincial park in it.
Crested Gecko Behavior
Identifying a crested gecko can be done by examining the following qualities: You’ll notice that a crested gecko has no eyelids, it has a rather transparent scale and it’ll keep the brill (the eyes) clear of debris by using their tongue. The closely related Rhacodactylus geckos also share a common trend with these geckos in their feet. They have noticeable webbing on their legs and digits. While in the wild or in captivity, they prefer to inhabit an area that they feel is a canopy. They like being up above the ground.
They will spend the majority of their day sleeping in a spot in a tree and can jump considerably well. They aren’t as strong a climber as other geckos related to their family so their foot pads aren’t as strong as a grip. Once the crested gecko loses its tail, it will not grow back like some other species of gecko. This is because the cells surrounding the base of the tail are rather brittle and it acts as a one-time defense mechanism in a life or death situation where they can detach their tail.
Once their tail is detached, the capillaries on the tail will actually close up instantly so there’s relatively no blood loss. Most adults in the wild found don’t have tails because they’ve already detached them to keep themselves safe and they can survive fine without them. If you keep a crested gecko in captivity and don’t feed it a fruit based diet along with insects, it could actually to a disease known as Metabolic Bone Disease due to a lack of nutrients from fruit. The crested gecko is an omnivore and needs fruit to survive.
Crested Geckos in Captivity
Exporting wild crested geckos in their natural habitat is actually now prohibited because they’re under protection. However, biologists exported a lot of different specimens to breed before New Caledonia stopped allowing them to export crested geckos, so they’re not in danger of dying out for pet owners anytime soon.
The crested gecko is actually one of the most common pets in the US and UK household. If they’re kept in captivity in relatively good condition and taken care of, it’s not uncommon for them to live for up to 20 years or even more depending on their care. As long as they’re kept healthy with prepared diets and calcium, then that should suffice in keeping them stable.
The Reproduction Process of Crested Geckos
Unlike other gecko families out there, not a lot is known about the reproduction process of the crested gecko. However, when they’re in captivity, they breed rather readily and the female is known to lay up to two eggs that will hatch anywhere from 60 up to 150 days after the eggs are laid. Eggs can be laid at four week intervals as long as the female is relatively healthy and has plenty of calcium in her reserves. However, when a female doesn’t have enough calcium to obtain a healthy level for her egg sac, it will be depleted and no egg will probably be laid.
She then runs the risk of suffering from calcium deficiency which in turn can kill her. A crooked tail or wavy tail on a newborn could be the sign of calcium deficiency in the mother, provided she does lay eggs and they hatch. As far as determining the sex of the hatchling, there are a lot of different theories on this and some people believe you can do this with heating the embryo. This isn’t confirmed by any sort of testing what so ever.
New hatchlings will not eat until they shed their very first skin. When they do, they’ll eat their first skin and that will more than likely be their first meal.
During the mating process, a successful mating process only has to occur once for the female to lay eggs every 4 weeks for up to 10 months. The female crested gecko has the ability to retain sperm and can remain fertile for the entirety of that time. After she’s done laying eggs, the female will go through what’s known as a cooling cycle and this is usually brought on by a temperature change. In captivity, if you do not bring on this cooling change, the female will have no idea when it’s her time to stop and will keep laying eggs until she dies.
The crested gecko was actually believed to be extinct up until recently in 1994. It was only after a tropical storm that these geckos were discovered again. One of the major threats to geckos right now is the little fire ant or also known as the Wassmania Auropunctata. These ants group up in great numbers to sting and attack geckos all over and also prey on the same food that crested geckos do.