Pachydactylus rangeiNamib Sand Gecko, Web-footed gecko

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Geographic Range

Pachydactylus rangei is found in Africa south of the Sahara Desert, mainly in Namibia.

Habitat

As they are nocturnal, these geckos live mostly nestled in deep burrows in the desert sand where there is a moderate amount of moisture during the day. They venture out to the surface only when the desert's temperature has dropped at night.

Physical Description

Namibian geckos have translucent skin, mostly a somber brown or gray color which helps them blend in with their desert environment. They have thin, spindly legs and large webbed feet, which help them dig burrows in the coastal Namib Desert. Their webbed feet also allow them to run across the fine sand in their native habitat. These webs are fleshy, but they contain tiny cartilages that support a delicate system of muscles that coordinate the fine sand-scooping motions of the feet. Additionally, the adhesive pads on their toes have rows of plates called lamellae, which are covered with thousands of microscopic hook like projections called villosities. These villosities catch any minor surface irregularity in order to aid the gecko in climbing.

Pachydactylus rangei possess large, bulb-like eyes with vertical pupils. Their eyes are are dark brown and red, and they stand out against the pinkish-brown color of the head and back of the species. Like most geckos, they lack eyelids. Instead, the eyes are covered with a transparent scale, called a spectacle, which is cleaned by periodic licking.

This species does not show marked sexual dimorphism. Although males are generally smaller, the differences between males and females are so small that they can only be determined by examining a large number of specimens. These lizards usually range in size from 10-15 cm long, and individuals have a lifespan of 1-5 years.

Reproduction

The breeding season for the Namib web-footed gecko begins in the spring (April/May). The male geckos bites the female's neck and subsequently holds her tightly while maneuvering his tail under hers to complete copulation. Females lay eggs in pairs, although young females who have never laid eggs before may lay only one egg. The eggs are buried in a moist substrate around 30 degrees Celsius. Eggs are calcareous, around 8-11 by 7-9 mm in size, and may be either stuck together or separate. The young are hatched in about eight weeks. Depending on when the female lays the eggs (usually between May and August), the young emerge between July and October.

Behavior

Males often fight with one another, especially if left alone together in captivity. This a mostly solitary species.

Food Habits

Palmatogecko is a nocturnal, insectivorous animal. They are known as inefficient hunters because their prey (such as grasshoppers, small spiders, and any arthropod small enough for them to digest) can easily avoid them. However, by hunting at night, they are able to take advantage of the lack of competition from other lizards during the hours when insects and spiders are off their guard. Their large eyes and vertical pupils help the lizards see well at night.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Important in the pet trade.

Conservation Status

Human activities threaten the geckos' survival. People hunt them for food, and in many areas, their habitats have been destroyed. Some laws have been passed that help to protect the lizards.

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated

Other Comments

Pachydactylus rangei has complex vocalizations, ranging from squeaks and clicks to croaks and barks. These forms of communication are utilized when the lizard is disturbed or if it is trying to attract a mate.

Contributors

Melanie Cutler (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

References

Cogger, Harold G. 1992. Reptiles and Amphibians. Smithmark Publishers, New York. pp. 131, 146-9.

Mattison, Chris. 1991. Keeping and Breeding Lizards. Blandford, London. pp. 88-94.

Seufer, Hermann. 1985. Keeping and Breeding Geckos. TFH Publications, Germany. pp. 91-3.

World Book Encyclopedia. 1986. World Book Incorporated, Inc., Chicago. Vol. G: pp. 357-9.