Native born to the deserts of Asia and all throughout Pakistan, comes the leopard gecko. Also known as the Eublepharis macularius, this is a dwelling type lizard and some have reported finding this gecko in Northwestern parts of India as well. What sets the leopard geckos’ apart characteristically from other geckos is that they have the ability to move their own eyelids. They’ve become a wildly popular pet to keep in captivity.
The leopard geckos were described by Zoologist Edward Blyth in 1854 and were announced as a species. In 1854, they were known as the Eublepharis macularius. The name Eublepharis derives from Greek terminology as the word Eu means “good” and the word blephar means “eyelid”. The eyelids of the leopard geckos are what distinguishes them primarily from other subspecies and how most zoologists tell them apart. Leopard gecko are commonly known to lack lamellae, they don’t have the same bumpy skin most gecko do and they have nocturnal behavior.
The name macularius comes from a latin term macula which means blemish or spot. This particular species of gecko has a natural like appearance with spotted markings on the body. While not exactly alike, leopard gecko have a relation very close with a lot of other gecko including the African fat-tailed gecko. There has been found different subspecies that are very close to the leopard gecko in relation.
Habitat of the Leopard Gecko
The leopard gecko are more commonly found in the regions of the southern Asia where the land is either rocky or dry. Some areas that are known to be homeland to leopard gecko are a very few parts of Iran, some parts of Northwestern India, some areas in Pakistan and the South-Asian parts of Afghanistan. While the winter weather in some of these regions isn’t as bad as it is in the Western part of the hemisphere, 50 degrees in places like Afghanistan is still rather cold.
When this type of weather occurs, the leopard gecko will then make its way underground into hibernation. This process is also called Brumation and during Brumation, the leopard gecko will live off of fat reserves. Leopard gecko are limited to burrowing during the day which is also known as being a crepuscular reptile. They only come out during the day or when the temperature is favorable and not too hot or cold. Leopard gecko aren’t common to live with other gecko so it’s not recommended to put them with other household pets or in captivity with another one unless you’re trying to mate them.
Diet of the Leopard Gecko
Like just about every other gecko in the wild or in captivity, leopard gecko feed on insects. Some people like to feed them flies, some like to feed them crickets and some like to feed them worms. However in the wild, gecko have to find and hunt their own food. Roaches and crickets usually derive in places like forests so in those dry rocky areas, gecko will commonly go hunting for worms or other insects that live underneath rocky areas.
Because of this and their natural habitat, gecko will not commonly eat dead prey. If an insect is dead, they might not know that its food and more than likely won’t eat it. Crickets is probably the best food to give a leopard gecko in captivity because they’re cheap to buy in bulk and come with nutrients to help the gecko grow. Mealworm and other types of worms are common and easy to buy and while they work great for fishing endeavors, I wouldn’t typically recommend them for feeding pet gecko.
When food becomes scarce and they’re on the hunt for food, they have an uncanny ability to actually store fat inside of them in their tails. This is a defense mechanism from starving to death. In captivity, being under the pressure of being unable to roam, leopard gecko heavily rely on Vitamin D3 and calcium to grow up. While these gecko get the same nutrients from the wild, it’s not relatively known exactly how they get these nutrients or how much nutrients are in the prey that they eat out in the wild.
Some people have suggested that food such as spiders, various insects or ants are where they get this source of calcium and D3 out in the wild. There’s no possible way to duplicate their diet from when they live out in the wild. To counter combat this, people like to dust some calcium vitamins on top of things like crickets before they feed the crickets to their gecko.
Out in the wild when hunting, leopard gecko have a very strong sense of sight and smell that allows them to detect and find food easier. When they’ve found a prey that they might be interested in, they’ll wave their tail back and forth like an actual cat hunting in the jungle and if they’re satisfied with their current find, they will then strike, making it a meal.
Characteristics of a Leopard Gecko
The leopard family of gecko are quite large compared to other family of geckos. When leopard geckos are just hatchlings, they can be anywhere from 2.6 to 3.3 inches and only weight about 3 grams. However, when they reach adulthood, these geckos can be anywhere from 8.1 to 11 inches and weigh up to 65 grams. They grow rather quickly and you should see constant progress every month while they’re held in captivity.
When leopard gecko are found out in the wild, it’s noticed that they’ll have a darker and drabber coloration than gecko that are in captivity. When in captivity, leopard gecko have a variable and wide assortment of bright colors on them that show up clearer. They’ve also got more prominent patterns as well. Leopard gecko feature incredibly resilient and durable skin. This is probably because in the wild, they need protection from sand storms, rocky hills, or the dry humid environment from their habitat.
On the dorsal side, you’ll notice that these geckos are covered with small pumps that give them a texture that appears rough. Their ventral side however is quite thing, smooth and transparent in comparison. The leopard gecko like every other reptile will shed their skin. You’ll know when a leopard gecko is about to shed its skin because the skin will turn into a very translucent white or gray. The average adult leopard gecko will shed its skin once a month and the juveniles will more commonly shed their skin twice as much.
After the gecko (like most geckos) are done shedding, the will eat their own skin and this is done primarily for two reasons. The first reason being is because they want to hide their tracks from predators and they don’t want any predator to have any tracks or leads on them. The second reason being is that some zoologists believe that there’s actually calcium or nutrients inside of their skin that helps them get nutrients they wouldn’t otherwise get from prey in the wild. The second reason is just speculation and isn’t exactly proven yet.
During the day, leopard gecko that are out and about will absorb all of the warmth into their body and use that while they’re sleeping. This energy that they store is later translated during the night so that they can go hunting and have an easier time finding food. Leopard gecko are incredibly swift due to their short legs they have and this also allows them to climb onto twigs and rocks to avoid danger. While geckos don’t commonly have “ears”, they instead have little openings on the side of their head that allow them to eat.
The ears are protected by a protective cover on their head known as the tympanic membrane. Their prey is actually located via their ears and not their eye sight. A healthy leopard gecko will feature a very thick tail and if a leopard gecko has a thin tail, it’s probably because the gecko is lacking nutrition and won’t be hunting optimally. If in captivity, the tail is thing but they’re being fed on a relatively regular schedule, you can feed pinky mice or wax worms just to fatten the tail up. This isn’t the most recommended fix as most breeders will recommend that you spray some crickets with nutritional powder or vitamins before feeding it to them.
Leopard gecko have teeth that are actually replaceable 3 times a year. If they lose 100 of their teeth, you can expect to see them replaced in just 3 to 4 months.
Defense Mechanisms of a Leopard Gecko
Out in the wild, leopard gecko have a lot of predators. Some of these predators will depend on their habitat but include foxes, snakes, frogs and generally any reptile that’s larger than them. Instead of fighting off their prey, they rely on their hearing to help detect and evade predators. Among their hearing, their skin also plays an important role in deterring predators as it acts as a camouflage. During the day is the highest chance of being eaten be predators which is one of the main reasons why they like to stay hidden underground during the day.
One incredibly unique defense ability the leopard gecko has is the ability to actually detach its own tail. If it’s attacked by the tail, it will detach its tail and simply scurry away. When the tail is removed, it can actually continue to twitch for 30 minutes on its own as it provides a distraction from the predator.
Sexual Differences in Leopard Geckos
This is also commonly referred to as sexual dimorphism and what dimorphism means is that it’s the difference between male and female in a particular species. This exists in just about any species but is prominently used to discuss the differences between reptiles as there’s some indistinguishable differences that are hard to tell apart. However, for the leopard gecko, it only exists in the adult males and females and juveniles have not yet developed these distinguishes.
If you examine the underside of a gecko, you’ll know the sex of the gecko for sure. When examining the adult male, you’ll notice that they have pre-anal pores and there will be hemipenal bulges. The females however do not have these external bulges and their pores are much smaller as well. So how do leopard gecko determine the sex of each other when trying to mate?
When it comes to mating, the male can detect a female in its radius simply by the pheromones that a leopard gecko’s skin gives off. If a male is in proximity within another male, they will probably try to fight each other as they’re extremely territorial. However, males are courteous gentleman in the presence of a female and will treat them with solitude unless trying to mate and then they will make their move.
When a male approaches another male, you’ll notice before they strike because they’ll raise themselves up from the ground and extend their limbs. This is the motion for them signaling to the other male to back off or let’s fight. The tongue will swell up and the back will be arched. If still threatened or the other males hasn’t retreated, they will dash forward and strike their opponent going for the skin. They’ll often make deep lacerations and seriously injure the other male.
Even while they’re shedding their own skin, males are always courteous to females and will not raise up or try to fight them off of their territory.
The Reproduction Cycle of Leopard Gecko
Having sex for the leopard gecko will highly depend on the temperature of their environment. Through heavy research, females have been shown to be born more in cooler temperatures ranging from 79 degrees Fahrenheit to 86 degrees. It was also recorded that warm temperatures up to 95 degrees had the same effect.
If you produced intermediate temperatures and short for an average between the two listed above, you would be more likely to breed males. This isn’t a pure science and you won’t always get those results but it does help swing options towards your favor. The hatchlings who are born in warmer temperatures often exhibit more aggressive behavior than those who are born in cooler temperatures. The females who are highly aggressive as known as infertile because of their aggressive nature.
Breeding commonly occurs in the summer. They will store sperm inside of them for the entire breeding season so they only need to mate once. For each copulation, they can actually produce up to three clutches in a single copulation. Females need to have a very high amount of calcium inside of them or else their hatchlings might not ever be born or they may not lay eggs at all.
When a female lays a clutch, there will be two eggs in each clutch. She will lay anywhere from six to eight clutches in a single breeding season. After mating, the eggs should start being laid approximately one month after. After about 60 days, you’ll notice that the shells will have moisture on them and they’ll appear to be shrinking. Baby leopard gecko come equipped with a little tooth on their snout that helps them break out of their shell and once they’re out of their shell, their egg tooth as some have called it will actually fall off within 24 hours.
Having Leopard Geckos as a Pet
Leopard gecko are by far one of the most popular pets because they’re relatively easy to clean up after and take care of. They’re one of the first actual domesticated Lizard species. They’re very robust, they’re small and they’re easy to take care of which many breeders believe makes them the perfect beginner’s pet. They come with various color variations and are incredibly easy to breed in captivity just with weather control.
There have been a lot of different morphs noted from breeders and some of them are pattern-less breeds, blizzard strains, jungle strains snow, giant, tangerine and even albino.