The leopard gecko is one of the most popular species kept as a pet. What makes this creature so special? We’ve compiled a list of fascinating facts about leopard geckos. Let’s find out together!
1. There are over 100 leopard gecko morphs
Leopard geckos, also called common leopard geckos, are reptiles that live on the ground. They are bigger than the majority of gecko species. Although being born small (just about 4 inches long and weighing a few grams), a full adult leopard gecko has a size of 7 – 11 inches in length and weighs from 50 to 80 grams. And they get this size only after 18 months. The male is a bit larger than the female.
Leopard geckos are named after the leopard patterns on their skin. The usual wild-type (or normal) leopard gecko has yellow with little brown or black blotches all over its body, from head to tail.
After hatching, the young leopard gecko comes in horizontal lines or stripes. But when it gets older, these markings progressively expand out into dots.
Through selective breeding, there are now over 100 different fancy leopard gecko morphs with varying coloration, sizes, patterns, and physical characteristics. Some popular morphs are:
– Normal (Wild type): This is the basic yellow leopard gecko with black spots. It’s usually seen in nature.
– Giant and Super Giant: These two are the biggest leopard geckos measuring about 12 inches in length and weighing 130 to 150 grams. The heaviest was roughly 170 grams.
– Blizzard: This morph has no patterns, it can have the coloration of purple, white, and yellow (banana). It is extremely identical to the Murphy Patternless morph. The special characteristic of this morph is its all-black eyes. There is also a bolder version called Midnight Blizzards.
– Carrot tail: At least 15% of the tail of this morph is orange.
– High yellow leopard gecko has fewer dots and is more yellow than the basic version.
– Lavender: The color of this morph is pale iris or lavender. However, not many geckos can keep their colors when they age.
– Super Hypo morph has no blotch at all.
– Hypo Melanistic: A leopard gecko must exhibit 10 or fewer spots on its skin to be classified as a Hypo.
– Raptor: This is an albino leopard gecko with a yellowish-orange body and red eyes. There will be no black dots on these variants. There are some variants of this morph like snow raptor or tremper raptor.
– Lemon frost: This is a rare version with unusual colors. It also features skin tumors like humans.
Other popular morphs are reverse stripe, baldy, aberrant, tangerine, hyper melanistic, eclipse, Halloween mask, sunglow, enigma, jungle, leucistic, bandit, galaxy, bold stripe, black night, red stripe, mack snow, etc.
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2. They eat their shed
A common leopard gecko’s skin is extremely tough, giving them protection from its harsh, rocky, and rugged surroundings. Their dorsal side is also covered in bumps, providing them with a rough texture and look, whereas their ventral side is slender, translucent, and smooth.
Leopard geckos, like all reptiles, lose their skin regularly. However, they don’t shed and let their it there. They eat their shedding skin as a high nutrient source, which helps refill their bodies after a distressing shed. Eating their own shedding skin also helps them eliminate any traces that could let predators track them down.
Every 28 to 32 days, these geckos do the shedding. The adults shed once every 1 to 2 months, whereas the young and juvenile geckos will shed more frequently as they are developing quickly.
3. Natural habitat
Leopard geckos are from Iran, Iraq, northwest India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. They live in deserts, rocky hillsides, and dry meadows in such areas.
As a result, an enclosure with only desert plants is not suitable for this species. Habitat setup should have a substrate out of sand, soil, and bark. You should also add a lot of hiding spots and surface debris to enhance its native environment.
In nature, leopard geckos spend most of their harsh day staying in burrows or hiding in rocky crevices. They just go out at night to look for food and mate.
Many people assume these species are nocturnal. However, this’s not true. Leopard geckos are crepuscular rather than nocturnal. They’re most active at dawn and dusk times. These are when the weather is good, their preferred prey things are active, and hunting is easy.
On the other hand, leopard geckos in captivity can be active at whichever time of the day. It sometimes depends on the owner’s activity, it’s simply their choice at the other time.
In the winter, the geckos have to go into semi-hibernation (a.k.a brumation) underground because the temperature can drop below 10°C (50°F). In the brumation period, they survive on fat reserves.
Leopard geckos are solitary creatures that do not generally coexist with other species. They can, however, dwell in tiny, loosely defined groups with a single male and numerous females. In captivity, leopard geckos can live together if they are females, although the bigger one will steal food from the smaller. The male and female should only be kept together when you want to breed them and they are old enough.
5. They are well adapted to the harsh environment
a. They can lose their tail and run
A leopard gecko’s tail plays an important role in its survival. This lizard rattles its tail when hunting, breeding, or protecting its territory. The tail also saves its life.
When attacked or feeling frightened, this species drops its tail and run for its life. The lost tail keeps twitching for up to 30 minutes, attracting the predator’s attention. This enables the gecko to flee from its predator. Its tail eventually grows back, but it never appears as full and robust as the original one.
Besides the tail-drop skill, these geckos have a few additional important defense mechanisms to survive. The most visible feature is their skin tone, which can help them create an almost perfect camouflage in their sandy and rocky habitats.
c. Their vision is as good as a cat’s vision
The vision of leopard geckos has evolved over time with many unique features.
The gecko can see colors in the dark. This could be because these crepuscular species have to rely on their keen sight and sense of smell to seek food in darkness. This ability also helps them avoid predators. It’s almost as though they’re lurking in plain view.
Since their vision is far more sophisticated than ours, the geckos are claimed to be able to detect light spectrums that humans cannot see or even do not know.
Despite having good vision, these animals cannot see the shade of red color. Their eyes, like those of many nocturnal lizards, lack a specific red cone. This characteristic prevents them from seeing the color red. This does not imply that you can put red lights on in their tank all night. It annoys them.
6. They have eyelids
One of the special features that make leopard geckos different from many other lizards is that they have eyelids. Day geckos, crested geckos, or house geckos, on the other hand, own fixed eyelids. They have to live their whole life with exposing eyeballs.
Leopard geckos’ eyelids envelop their eyeball, giving the eyes an expressive appearance. With these eyelids, the geckos can have their eyes closed to sleep, to prevent their eyes from dirt and injury, and to moisturize them.
7. They can go without food for 2 weeks
Leopard geckos cannot eat fruit or vegetables. Their diet mainly includes small insects, including beetles, centipedes, dubia roaches, wax worms, crickets, mealworms (even the dead ones), snails, earthworms, flies and fly larvae, grasshoppers, etc.
However, they are also opportunistic eaters. They’re gonna feed on scorpions and spiders if they are starving. When the food is scarce, the geckos even eat other smaller lizards. They can even stand for up to 2 weeks without eating anything. The fat in their tail can help them to survive.
Snakes, other large reptiles, and foxes are among the predators of common leopard geckos.
8. They can bark
Leopard geckos create sounds to convey their emotions. This creature can produce a variety of sounds, including barkings, clickings, chirpings, squeakings, and screamings.
– Leopard geckos can bark and it sounds like a raspy chirp. The species bark to assert their territory or woo a partner. When feeling threatened, the gecko barks to scare off tough predators. The barking sound is less prevalent than the clicking noise.
– When meeting a new gecko or feeling frightened, they may emit an unusual clicking sound.
– If they are upset, afraid, or starving, they will make a bird-like chirp.
– When greatly stressed or scared, this lizard can scream or shriek.
9. They cannot climb up
Unlike many geckos, leopard geckos are quite slow and they can’t climb up the wall or any verticle surface. This is because they don’t have sticky pads on the soles of their feet. Instead of that, they have tiny claws. With these claws, they can crawl on rocks and huge branches, but not too high.
This feature makes them hard to get away from predators like other geckos, such as crested or tokay geckos. However, in captivity, this isn’t always a minus. When you keep them in a tank, they will not escape since they can’t scale the glass.
10. Their gender is determined by temperature
The breeding season of leopard geckos often takes place in the warmer times of spring and summer. However, geckos in captivity can breed at any time if you keep them healthy.
In nature, common leopard geckos look for mates after they achieve sexual maturity. The species will emit pheromones produced by the pores on their rear legs. They also detect pheromones of the other geckos.
To mate with females, the males have to compete with each other to earn the right to mate. In the wild, a male can mate with different females during his life, and vice versa.
Male leopard geckos, like many other reptiles, have hemipenes, or two “tools” inside their vent. These “tools” help the male to have successful reproduction. From 21 to 28 days after mating, the females usually lay two soft eggs in one clutch. Females can lay between 6 and 8 clutches.
What’s interesting is that the temperature of the gecko’s incubation decides its gender before it is born. A female will be born at 26-29°C (79-84°F), whereas a male is born at about 31-33°C (88-91°F). If the egg is incubated at the temperature of between 29.4oC (85°F), it can be either male or female.
Depending on the incubation temperature, the eggs hatch around 35 to 90 days. Newborn leopard geckos will use their “egg tooth” to crack the eggshell. This “tooth” will fall out in 1 – 2 days. Those babies will be unable to consume anything until the first shedding occurs within 24 hours after hatching.
They achieve sexual maturity between the ages of 18 and 24 months. Their life expectancy in the wild is only 3 to 5 years. Their lifespan in captivity is much longer, more than 20 years.
11. They lose all spots when aging
The blotches on most leopard geckos will fade when they get older. Some are able to retain a few on the mouth, tail, and throat.
Leopard geckos do not have the small dots on their bodies until they become adults. When they fully grow, will look very different than juveniles. This transformation takes almost one year and generally happens after the first shed. When they get older, they will lose the majority of their blotches.
12. They store calcium in their armpits
If you have a leopard gecko, have a look at its armpits and you’ll see two lumps there. These armpit bubbles are where your gecko retains the calcium it consumes every day.
The gecko will use calcium stored in these fatty-looking lumps when necessary. Without calcium, it cannot survive! It can acquire an illness called MBD, which will effectively eat up at its body until it dies.
So, make sure your geckos’ small bumps in their armpits are constantly nice and full.
13. They are one of the most popular pets
Leopard geckos, like bearded dragons, are among the most popular pet reptiles on the planet. Their tiny body with wide-eyed and cute looks have made them a favorite.
While most other gecko species are either shy or hostile, leopard geckos have a curious, gentle, friendly, and pleasant temperament. They’re not dangerous, also easily socialize from an early age and well accept being held and handled. Furthermore, they are smart, quite low maintenance, easy to care and have a long lifespan if they are taken care of in the right way.
All of these reasons above make them good pets, especially for beginners. Today, they are kept as pets on nearly every continent.
One thing you should remember is that leopard geckos can bite you. This usually happens if you don’t hold or handle them properly. Although the bite won’t hurt you or cause any damage, you can still startle and drop your gecko. This could hurt it.
To avoid this, you should read “How to take care of the leopard geckos” guidelines here. The article can help you to set up the tank (temperature, humidity, lighting, substrate, hiding cave, etc), to feed the gecko, and to interact with it.
You can buy leopard geckos at pet shops or from breeders online. Leopard gecko price is varied. You can own a cheap one for only $20, however, some variants can cost you up to $600. The price is different, depending on many factors, such as morph, colors, lineage, age, quality, etc.