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An Accomplished Lizard Vocalist – the Tokay Gecko, Gekko gecko

Tokay GeckoAlthough many lizards are quite vocal, perhaps none is so capable and well known as the Tokay gecko.  In fact, the species draws its common name from the loud cries of “Tokay! Tokay!, given (most often in the wee hours of the morning) by the extremely territorial males.  Ranging throughout much of south and Southeast Asia, and introduced to Hawaii, Florida and Martinique, the Tokay does not mind human company.  It is often more common in homes and other buildings than in more natural settings, even within such bustling cities as Hong Kong and Miami.

Rentable Geckos?
Tokay geckos are aggressive, 12 inch long predators, and do not hesitate to tackle small snakes, treefrogs, other lizards, nestling birds and mammals.  Roaches are, however, particularly favored – a dietary preference that often endears them to their human hosts, despite their noisy ways.  Some years ago a pet store in New York City began renting them to customers for just that reason.  However, the geckos’ propensity to proclaim their territory via “song”, most often at 4 AM, and their willingness to bite (and unwillingness to release their hold!) doomed the scheme to failure.

Early Morning Singers
I once released a group of Tokay geckoes into a large zoo exhibit as a roach control measure (well, to be honest, mainly because I liked to watch them go about their business at night – few lizards can keep up with roach reproduction!).  In those days I was often at the zoo until all hours of the night, dealing with emergencies and satisfying my curiosity about the nocturnal goings on there.  As has been reported by sleepless gecko hosts worldwide, the males did indeed call most frequently (and vigorously) between the hours of 2 and 4 AM.

You can read more about the natural history of Tokay geckos and related species at:

An Introduction to Geckos

Some of our most familiar and desirable of reptile pets, such as the leopard gecko and the brilliantly-colored day geckos, are members of a fascinating family of lizards that I would like to introduce today.

The 1,050 or more species of geckos comprise the second largest of lizard families, the Gekkonidae (the largest is the Scincidae, or skinks). They range throughout the world, reaching their greatest diversity in desert and tropical habitats. “House geckos” of several species follow human habitation and are widely transplanted, including into the southeastern USA. Geckos range in size from the various Shaerodactylus species, some of which are full grown at 1.2 inches in length, to the New Caledonian giant gecko, Rhacodactylus leachianus, a bulky creature that tops out at nearly 15 inches. Several other species, now considered extinct but which may possibly still survive in Madagascar’s forest canopy, reached 24 inches in length.
Adult Leopard Gecko
Geckos generally lay 2 eggs, although some bear live young. Arboreal types often glue their eggs to tree branches or building walls. Most are insectivorous, but many take nectar and over-ripe fruits as well. The voracious tokay gecko, Gekko gecko, consumes nestling birds, small rodents and bats, snakes and other lizards. A number of species are highly endangered while others, such as the leopard gecko, Eublepharis macularius, are pet trade staples. Many have a long association with people, being welcome in homes for their insect-catching abilities and sometimes regarded as good luck symbols. Some years back, a store in NYC even rented tokay geckos for use as roach-control agents. However, the males’ habit of calling loudly (“Tokay-Tokay!”) at 4 AM and their pugnacious dispositions rendered the scheme less-than-profitable!

The ability of many geckos to climb sheer walls (even glass) and to run upside-down on ceilings was first recorded by Aristotle in the 4th century BC. Only recently has the secret behind this remarkable phenomenon been discovered. The toes of many species are covered with layered pads known as lamellae, which in turn support thousands of microscopic hair-like structures called setae. Their action against a surface sets up a weak molecular attraction known as the van-der-Waals force, and this, it seems, is the source of their unique method of adhesion. This phenomenon Tokay Geckois being studied with a view towards creating new adhesives for use in industry.

Members of this huge family have evolved startling adaptations to a number of basic themes. To cite just one example – depending upon the species, tails are used to distract predators (by disengaging from the body), plug burrows, extrude noxious secretions, create sound, communicate with others, convey stability while gliding, store food and grip branches.


If you have a special interest in geckos, you may wish to join the Global Gecko Association, or to visit their website for further information:


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