Hemidactylus mabouiaHouse gecko

Geographic Range

Hemidactylus mabouia, better known as tropical house geckos, are native to south-central region of Africa in countries such as Kenya, Zimbabwe, Uganda and others. Their range includes the islands west of Western Sahara. Tropical house geckos are also native to the island of Madagascar. They are present on Ascension Island in the Atlantic, but it's unclear whether they are native or introduced here.

They have been introduced into central and southern Florida, including the Florida keys. Tropical house geckos also are in the Caribbean island such as Cuba, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands, and the Dutch Windward Islands. These geckos also have a presence in South America, with a geographic range that borders the continent in the shape of a horse shoe from the north coasts to the central region. Their range stretches south, but geckos are absent on the southern tip of the continent. (Cappellari, 2006; Lever, 2003; Myeres, 1945; Petren and Short, 2012)


In their native range, tropical house gecko habitat was confined to African tropical forests and the shrub forests. Now widespread, their habitats include sandy areas, scrubby areas near beaches, on tree trunks, and on the outside walls of houses. They are commonly found in urban and suburban areas - as their common name suggests, they commonly live inside houses, as well. They can live very close to sea level (5 meters) to elevations of 1600 meters. (Kennedy and Kennedy, 2013; Mills, 2009; Myeres, 1945)

  • Range elevation
    5 to 1600 m
    16.40 to 5249.34 ft

Physical Description

Tropical house geckos have a slender body, and a flat head that is wider than their neck. Most of their bodies are covered in black/brown bands, but the geckos also have the ability to change their color based on the temperature and light. Their colors can expand from dark brown to a grey almost white. Tropical house geckos also have dorsal scales, and have tubercles that are in rows on the body of them. On their toe surfaces are lamellae, which are the spike-like scales that help the geckos grip onto vertical surfaces. They have an average mass of 4.6 g (range 4 to 5 g). Their average snout-vent length is 58 mm (typical range 35 to 70mm). In a study by Iturriaga and Marrero (2013), adult male SVL (snout-vent length) was 51.56 (range 43.85 to 59.75) and female SVL was 54.47 (range 40.3 to 60.82 mm). Total body length is estimated at 12.5 tp 12.7 cm. Females tend to be slightly but not significantly larger than male geckos. (Iturriage and Marrero, 2013; Kennedy and Kennedy, 2013; Mills, 2009)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range mass
    4 to 5 g
    0.14 to 0.18 oz
  • Average mass
    4.6 g
    0.16 oz
  • Range length
    125 to 127 mm
    4.92 to 5.00 in


The eggs of Hemidactylus mabouia are small and white and calcified to prevent the loss of water. They are also soft and sticky so that geckos can place them in areas where it is hard for predators to reach. Hatchlings and juvenile geckos don't travel much and stay close to shelter, low ground, and crevices. The average size of hatchings is 23.1 ± 1.0mm, with the smallest being 22.2mm and largest being 24.4mm. Gamble (2010) states that tropical house geckos are thought to have temperature-dependent sex determination, primarily because they lack sex chromosomes that are heteromorphic (able to differentiate different alleles for male versus female). However, Gamble provides no additional information about temperatures for this species. Females are known to practice sperm storage. (Anjos and Rocha, 2008; Diniz, 2011; Myeres, 1945; de Oliveira Pinto Coelho Nogueira, et al., 2015; van Buurt, 2015)

  • Development - Life Cycle
  • temperature sex determination


Tropical house gecko males attract female mates by using chirping signals and pheromones. When approaching females, males will arch their backs and flick their tongues. If the females are interested in the male calls, they will show receptive behavior and let the male mount them. If the females disapprove, they show rejection by biting and whipping their tales at the males. Male geckos will defend their mates by showing their strength in arching their backs and leg extension and fighting if need be. Tropical house geckos are polygynandrous. (Regalado, 2003; de Oliveira Pinto Coelho Nogueira, et al., 2015; van Buurt, 2015)

Tropical house geckos have a year-round reproductive cycle, with up to 7 clutches per year. Females have the ability to store sperm. Breeding is favored from the months August to December in tropical areas. They have a fixed size of 2 offspring per clutch. Larger females are capable of producing eggs with larger volume, but not more than 2 eggs will be produced. The hatchlings have an average incubation period of 22-68 days (average = 56 days) to hatch. Tropical geckos are oviparous and hatchlings have a range of birth weight from 0.20-0.35 grams, with an average of 0.24g. The hatchlings' snout-vent length averages 23.1 ± 1.0mm. It takes roughly 6-12 months for both sexes to reach sexual maturity, and maturity is based on size not age. Female gecko average size at maturity is 52mm. (Anjos and Rocha, 2008; de Oliveira Pinto Coelho Nogueira, et al., 2015)

  • Breeding interval
    House geckos can have up to 7 clutches per year
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs most frequently between August and December, but can be year-round
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 2
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    22 to 68 days
  • Average gestation period
    56 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    6 to 12 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    6 to 12 months

Female tropical house geckos' have fixed clutch sizes of 2; even if the female is larger, she will only produce bigger eggs. In the pre-fertilization phase, females provide and protect themselves and their eggs. Females lay their eggs in a location prodie no further parental care. Male provide no parental care beyond mating. (Anjos and Rocha, 2008; Myeres, 1945; Rocha and Anos, 2007)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female


Tropical house gecko expected lifespan in both wild and captivity is 3 to 5 years. (Mills, 2009)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    3 to 5 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    3 to 5 years


Tropical house geckos are arboreal and their toe pads alow them to be excellent climbers. They are fairly sedentary creatures.

The behavior of tropical house geckos depends on the sex and age. When courting females, adult males often arched their backs, bit and flicked their tongue. Female geckos thrash their tails more often than males. With male-male and female-female interactions, individuals tended to bite, arch their backs, and tongue-flick more. On the other hand, with male-female interactions, males and females would have increased tail-waiving rates.

Tropical house geckos are a nocturnal species that takes advantage of artificial light sources to hunt. They consume insects. As territorial geckos, they can be aggressive. In a feeding study, juveniles were located closer to the ground in urban areas, while adult males were higher up (on buildings). This was suspected to be a case of aggression avoidance by juveniles. This also changed the diet of juveniles, which feed more on ground-dwelling insects. (Byrne, 2007; Horrocks, 2016; Iturriage and Marrero, 2013; Regalado, 2003)

Home Range

The home range of tropical house geckos' is small. Sometimes they can be confined to the single wall of a building or one tree. These geckos are territorial, though territory sizes have not been reported. Iturriage and Marrero (2013) report that gecko densities can range from 0.04 and 0.21 individuals per square meter in urban areas. (Iturriage and Marrero, 2013; Meshaka, 2000; Myeres, 1945)

Communication and Perception

Male tropical house geckos communicate with other geckos using chirps of varying frequencies. The chirps are most often made by males when they are courting a female, and typically follow pheromone or other chemical cues between the sexes. There is a low frequency chirp that geckos will emit only during male-male fights. Only females while courting raised their heads. Tongue flicking and tail waiving also are signals.

The geckos also use chemosignals or pheromones to communicate. These signals can be used to mark territorial boundaries, signal dominance, or to signal when a female is ready to mate.

Visual signals are believed to be less important in this species because of their nocturnal lifestyle. (Byrne, 2007; Regalado, 2003)

Food Habits

Tropical house geckos are generalist, opportunistic insectivores that mainly feed at night. In urban areas, they rely on artificial light sources and are sit-and-wait predators. Iturriage and Marrero (2013) found that cockroaches were the most common insect group consumed, but they consumed non-flying arthropods opportunistically. This included spiders, isopods, grasshoppers and centipedes, beetles, moths (adults and caterpillars). Adult geckos consume much more food than juveniles do, but there was not a difference in food choice between males and females or between adults and juveniles. (Iturriage and Marrero, 2013)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods


Tropical house geckos are preyed upon by birds, snakes, and spiders. Diniz (2011) reported a case of a giant orb-weaver spider Nephilengys cruentata consuming a gecko. Van Buurt (2016) reported a case of a colubrid snake called a two-headed sipo, Chironius bicarinatus, preying on this gecko.

Tropical house geckos have defense mechanisms against predators like vibrating their tails to distract the predator and draw attention to the tail. The geckos can also drop their tails and regenerate them. Tropical house geckos are also cryptic and can change their body color to mimic their surroundings. (Diniz, 2011; Van Buurt, 2016)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Tropical house geckos are insectivores, that feed opportunistically. Parasites of tropical house geckos are numerous, and include cestodes like Oochoristica truncata. There was evidence of cestodes Diplopylidium nolleri and Joyeuxiella pasqualei but the actual parasites were absent. Nematodes include Physalopteroides asymmetrica, Thelandros, and Pharyngodon morgani. Reeves (2017) reported nematodes Parapharyngodon ocalensis, and Anos et al. (2007) list pentastomids Raillietiella frenatus and Raillietiella cartagenensis. The mite Geckobia tasmani also has been reported. Generically, protozoans and acanthocephalans also have been recorded. (Anjos, et al., 2007; Iturriage and Marrero, 2013; Reeves, 2017; Rocha and Anos, 2007; Simonsen and Sarda, 1985)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • protozoans
  • acanthocephalans
  • nematodes (Physalopteroides asymmetrica)
  • nematodes (Thelandros)
  • nematodes (Pharyngodon morgani)
  • nematodes (Parapharyngodon ocalensis)
  • pentastomids (Raillietiella frenatus)
  • pentastomids (Raillietiella cartagenensis)
  • cestodes (Oochoristica truncata)
  • cestodes (Diplopylidium nolleri)
  • cestodes (Joyeuxiella pasqualei)
  • mite (Geckobia tasmani)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Tropical house geckos got their name living around the homes of humans. As insectivores, they could consume harmful pests. It is also sometimes common for them to be kept as pets. (Petren and Short, 2012)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Tropical house geckos are normally harmless, but a high density of feces in the home could be problematic. Tropical house geckos normally confine their feces to one location, and could be considered a household pest. (Meshaka, 2000; Petren and Short, 2012)

  • Negative Impacts
  • household pest

Conservation Status

Tropical house geckos have not been evaluated by the IUCN Red List. They don't have any special status on the US Federal List, CITES, and State of Michigan List. In many parts of their range, these geckos have been accidentally introduced, and have been established for hundreds of years. Food habitat studies suggest they coexist with native lizards and resource partitioning takes place. In Florida, its introduction has caused declines in native gecko species, and there is evidence that they consume hatchlings of other gecko species and of anoles. Anecdotal notes of orb-weaving spiders consuming tropical house geckos has led to the suggestion that orb-weaving spiders could be a biocontrol option for this species. No other conservation or eradication measures are in place. (Lever, 2003; Rocha and Anos, 2007)


Bryan Lennox (author), Radford University, Alex Atwood (editor), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, Joshua Turner (editor), Radford University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



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

World Map


living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

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


active during the night

oceanic islands

islands that are not part of continental shelf areas, they are not, and have never been, connected to a continental land mass, most typically these are volcanic islands.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


mature spermatozoa are stored by females following copulation. Male sperm storage also occurs, as sperm are retained in the male epididymes (in mammals) for a period that can, in some cases, extend over several weeks or more, but here we use the term to refer only to sperm storage by females.


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.


uses sight to communicate

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


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