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Tokay Gecko

Houston, TX

Imagine if you could beat gravity - walking on walls, standing upside down, etc. Cool! Isn’t it? Well, a gecko can do just that. It has long been an ambition of scientists to figure out how to walk upside down. A result of unleashing this “power” would be gloves and shoes that can go anywhere. There are nearly 1000 species of geckos around the world. Geckos are mostly small, nocturnal reptiles with a soft skin. Geckos have been on this planet for 47 million years! They have adapted to survive in habitats ranging from deserts to jungles. Geckos typically possess a stout body, large head, well-developed limbs with adhesive pads underneath. Though geckos are similar throughout their species, each gecko variety has its specialty!

Tokay Gecko beyond gravity
Tokay Gecko sticking to a glass

One such well known gecko is a Tokay Gecko (Gecko gecko), who got its name from the sound it makes, known for its climbing ability on any surface including glass! Its beautiful colors, patterns, and its adorable smile make it enticing and interesting to look at!

Tokay Gecko
Tokay Gecko

A Tokay Gecko has a beautiful blue or gray body with yellow, red, or orange spots. They might also have a green coloring here and there. They are the largest species of geckos. Their body measures up to 35 cm and is cylindrical, squat, somewhat flattened at the top. They tend to be feisty and pack with a powerful bite, as they can clamp on with their teeth. The bite may draw blood and be painful. If a tokay gecko does bite you, don’t pull or tug as that causes the gecko to tighten its grip. Instead, place the gecko near a possible retreat and it should release its grip on its own.

Almost all types of Geckos can survive even if its tail is cut off. They have a tail that can break off into several sections. The tail is used as a defense against predators. The shredded tail usually wiggles for 30 minutes, distracting the predator, long enough for the Tokay Gecko to escape. The tail regenerates usually in 3 months but it is smaller than the original one.

Tokay Gecko Toepad - Setae
Tokay Gecko Toepad - Setae

Geckos are known for their incredible ability to stick to walls, and the grip of the Tokay gecko is uniquely amazing. Each toe of the Tokay gecko has small, fine hair called setae. Those hairs branch off into even smaller bristles called spatulate. The setae form an electromagnetic connection with the electrons on the surface allowing them to walk on surfaces like glass. The connection is that strong that it can hold onto a surface with even just one toe.

Tokay Geckos have a 3rd eye called the median eye or parietal eye. It is not used for vision and is light sensitive. Scientists believe that this eye helps them regulate light. They have special folds on skin allowing them to not cast a shadow when a predator is nearby. The folds open allowing them to blend onto the tree bark or other perch.

Tokay Geckos can smell and detect scents using its nostrils and tongue. This is because they detect scents via a special organ called the Jacobson’s organ. Even its tongue carries the scents to the Jacobson’s organ, which are a pair of sacs lined with sensory cells. This helps them to “taste” even the air. Tokay geckos can hear anywhere from 300 Hertz- 1000 Hertz. They have 2 small holes on the sides of their heads which are their ears, and if you look closely through the ear, you will be able to see the other side.

They vocalize to communicate, find a potential mate, and ward off predators. They make a variety of sounds - from a small squeak to the deafening whistles of the African whistling gecko (Ptenopus Garrulus). The male tokay gecko makes a sound like “tokay” and thus its species got their name, Tokay Geckos. Also, it is their common mating call. Females mostly only hiss, and they do that when they're annoyed or trying to drive away a threat. They have a great sense of hearing. The females rarely make a barking sound when threatened. To hear exactly what a tokay gecko sounds like, make sure to hear the embedded audio here!

Gecko preying a tiny snake
Gecko snacking on a snake

Tokay geckos are insectivorous (animals that feed on insects); however, they also feed on moths, locusts, grasshoppers, beetles, cockroaches, termites, crickets, mosquitoes, spiders, and even small snakes. They often hunt during the night as they’re nocturnal.

Male Tokays have larger spur-like protrusions called cloacal spurs on the underside of the belly, while females have smaller and dull colored spots. Males have femoral pores along the thighs and are used to attract females. All tokay geckos are solitary and only meet during the mating season.

Gecko Eggs

The breeding season is 4 to 6 months. When a tokay gecko is ready to mate, the male will let out its mating call, “tokay,” multiple times in a crescendo. This call can be heard by geckos from several meters away. Then, it releases an enzyme from their femoral pores. When a female finds a laying site, she lays 1-2 hard-shelled eggs that are like a super sticky gelatin ball. Once the eggshells harden, they form a super strong bond between whatever surface they’re on. The eggs can be 3-45 mm long and oval shaped. After 120 days or 3 months, the eggs hatch and the hatchlings can be 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm) long. As soon as they hatch, the hatchlings eat the outer covering of their skin. They have the exact same temperament as their parents and will bite if they get a chance.

Gecko Hatchling

Tokay geckos have predators from the moment they’re born. Hatchlings are eaten by snakes, frogs, and birds. Adult geckos are food for cobras, kraits, raptors, and humans. This is one of the reasons geckos are feisty. Humans are one of their predators because many of these wonderful lizards are over collected for pet trade and traditional Chinese medicine. They are regarded as bringers of luck, good fortune, and fertility in Southeast Asia. Their conversation status is marked as least concern on the IUCN Red List, but their numbers are dropping because of all these reasons.

Many people today enjoy having selectively bred geckos as their pets! In fact, Leopard Geckos are popular for their friendliness, making them one of the best pet lizards for beginners and even for children as young as 8 years. Do you want to have a pet lizard? Which one will you choose?

Still thinking about unique pets? Explore below:

Image Courtesy:


Captivity - State of being under control.

solitary - living alone

Crescendo - a gradual increase in volume or intensity

Feisty - energetic, enthusiastic

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