Mediterranean house geckos (Hemidactylus turcicus) are native to the western region of the Middle East, northern Africa, and the majority of the Mediterranean region.
They also inhabit the eastern coast of Mexico, Cuba, France, the Gulf of Mexico, and Puerto Rico, but they are non-native to these areas. Mediterranean house geckos have also been spotted throughout subtropical and temperate regions of North America. House geckos have been located in tropical regions such as South America and temperate regions like Virginia. They can also live in areas as far north as Alaska and as far west as California. (Agasyan, et al., 2009; Locey and Stone, 2006; White and Husak, 2015)
Mediterranean house geckos inhabit sites around human areas including university campuses, shrublands, terrestrial terrain, and coastal regions. They can also dwell in dimly-lit areas and cemeteries. Mediterranean house geckos inhabit other areas like mountain peaks, inland cliffs and caves. They are more likely to be found in crevices of old, worn down buildings. Juveniles tend to be found on sidewalks near buildings. Non-native individuals have been spotted in Texas inhabiting brick walls, decorative vegetation, and grass. Geckos also live in stucco buildings with lighting around them. Their nests can be spotted in trash and under base boards of buildings. In Louisiana, Locey and Stone (2006) conducted experiments with Mediterranean house geckos and observed that they can live at elevations as high as 366 m. For this species, lowest, highest, and average elevation have not been reported. (Agasyan, et al., 2009; Davis, 1974; Locey and Stone, 2006; Meshaka Jr., et al., 2006; Saenz, 1996; Stabler, et al., 2012)
Mediterranean house geckos are commonly light in color or white. However, geckos can be other colors such as pink, light brown, or sandy yellow. Smooth scales are on their ventral side and spots are on their dorsal side. Other distinct characteristics include a dark marking that extends from the nostril to the eye to the upper ear. Geckos have large, vertical pupils with no eyelids. Granular dorsal scales (14 – 16 rows) are along their bodies and keeled dorsal tubercles (6-8 rows) are along the tail. Typical lengths of adult Mediterranean house geckos range from 10-13 cm with the tail included. Male snout – vent lengths range between 4.4 cm and 5.8 cm, while female snout – vent lengths range between 4.4 cm and 6.0 cm. The maximum length of a gecko can be up to 15 cm. Tails can be regenerated after they have been broken off. Juvenile tail regeneration rates are faster than adults. In 30 days, juvenile tails regenerated up to 85%. Adult males could regenerate up to 60%, and females up to 40% of their tails in 30 days. Phalanges are individual with 6-8 divisions of lamellae under first toe and between 9 - 10 under the fourth toe. Claws are at the end of their toes.
Males and females are morphologically variable by location. Male geckos possess head shapes more asymmetric than female geckos. Benefits of this selective feature include wider mouth openings for mating purposes and stronger force of bite. The typical range for male head lengths is between 1.0 cm and 1.5 cm with the widths ranging from 0.8 cm to 1.2 cm. The depths range from 0.4 cm to 0.8 cm. Female head lengths range from 0.8 cm to 1.4 cm with the widths ranging between 0.7 cm and 1.2 cm and the depths ranging between 0.4 cm and 0.8 cm. Geographic location also plays a factor in how different orientations affect morphology. Male geckos from the western part of the United States possess heads with more depth (0.6-0.75 cm) than geckos found further east (0.55 – 0.7 cm). Females that are westward have heads not as wide (0.75-0.9 cm) as eastern females (0.85 – 1.15 cm).
Mature males also have visible preanal pores and post-cloacal bones compared to females. Post–cloacal bones are one to two bones that are posterior to their urinary and fecal tracts. Preanal pores are glands that release chemicals such as pheromones or ones used to mark territory. These pores in males could range between 3 and 10. Vivid stripes develop on their tails as hatchlings and juveniles. Snout–vent length of juvenile geckos can range from 3.0 cm to 4.4 cm. The length of hatchlings can range from 0.94 cm – 1.19 cm, with their body width ranging from 0.8 cm - 0.98 cm, and mass from 0.34-0.56 g. (Granatosky and Krysko, 2014; Johnson, et al., 2005; McCoy, 1970; Texas State University, 2014; Rose and Barbour, 1968; Saenz and Conner, 1996; Selcer, 1990)
Throughout early development, Mediterranean house gecko eggs that vary in color depending on stage of development. Colors of eggs can be white, pink, or blue. It's unclear how the colors relate to the development of eggs. Mediterranean house gecko egg length ranges between 10.4 – 11.7 mm. Selcer (1990) reported the width of the eggs between 8.5 – 9.9 mm and the mass of eggs between 0.34 – 0.56 g. Rose (1968) recorded the snout–vent length of juveniles or hatchlings as between 25.0 – 27.7 mm. Sex of the juveniles is unable to be determined until preanal glands develop on the males. The incubation period for house gecko eggs averages at about 40 days in temperatures of around 31 degrees Celsius. Female ovarian follicles average at 2.5 mm. in diameter. When ovulation takes place, follicles can range between 8 – 8.5 mm. in diameter. Vitellogenesis, or development of yolky ovaries, begins in March and April. Male and female growth rates vary per month in non-native habitats such as Texas, Florida and Louisiana. Growth is indeterminate.
In Texas, Selcer (1986) observed the average length of geckos to be 10.9 mm. In Florida, Punzo (2001) measured the minimum length at 0.8 mm and the maximum up to 6.9 mm. In Louisiana, geckos demonstrated a negative growth rate. Negative growth rate contributes to the shrinking of geckos’ snout-vent length. This was mainly common in males during breeding season, allocating energy to find a mate. Paulissen (2014) measured the minimum growth rate per month at -6.4 mm and the maximum growth rate per month at 14.1 mm. (Paulissen, et al., 2014; Punzo, 2001; Rose and Barbour, 1968; Selcer, 1990)
Male house geckos use clicking vocalizations when ready to mate with female house geckos. Male geckos produce multiple clicks that are to the pattern of the female house gecko squeaks. Male clicks for mating with females are equivalent or longer than the previous click. Frankenberg (1982) demonstrated studies where parts of male clicking calls ranging between 5 and 5.5 kilohertz every 10 milliseconds. Females produce short, loud squeaks in between the clicks of the male. It is also common for female house geckos to produce loud, melodic squeaks in between male clicks to be released from a male. Loud, short mating squeaks produced by females averaged at 5 kilohertz every 10 milliseconds. Loud, melodic squeaks produced by females averaged at 5.5 kilohertz every 10 milliseconds House geckos are polygamous with a sex ratio of 1:1. Copulatory biting is a mechanism that male geckos use to mate with females. Male geckos with bigger heads or larger bodies have better mating success than smaller males. Bigger males tend to have stronger biting behaviors leading to successful fertilization. (Frankenberg, 1982; Johnson, et al., 2005)
Female Mediterranean house geckos have a breeding season from April to August of every year. Females begin to mate between late April and early or mid-May. Egg clutches of house geckos are an average of two eggs. The maximum number of clutches laid at one time is four. Females lay eggs from mid–May to August. Females can take up to two months to lay their clutches of eggs. Eggs are laid with or without shells. Shelled eggs are distinct due to their hard body wall. Eggs lose their shells when they are close to hatching. As the internal egg membrane disappears, the shell becomes moist and translucent. Females continue to produce eggs throughout breeding season. Birth mass of eggs ranges between 0.34 to 0.56g.
Female house gecko maturation is achieved in the winter or spring season of their first or second year. Age at female sexual maturity can range between 4-5 months to a year. Females can also develop longer snout–vent lengths in order to have greater volume to carry eggs. Females collect male sperm in a posterior funnel shaped organ called the infundibulum. Females experience delayed fertilization. The longest that sperm can survive in this organ is 5 months. Because of this delay, their gestation period is unknown. Growth rates at peak sexual maturity for males and females average at 10.9 mm per month. Male house geckos reach sexual maturity within a year or less.
Age of sexual maturity seems to vary greatly across their native and non-native ranges. In Turkey, it's reported as 2-3 years for both sexes. In the southern United States, it's 18 months for females. (Eckstut, et al., 2009; Kanat and Tok, 2015; Rose and Barbour, 1968)
Very little is known about the parental investment of Mediterranean house geckos. Information on how juveniles’ benefit is unknown. Adults have been observed biting the juveniles. It is possible that this occurs due to juveniles’ invading adult territories. House gecko nests were commonly found in attics, sheds, garages, and in wall boards. Communal nests where females come and lay their eggs at a certain location were observed. A range of 2 – 20 eggs were found in this these types of nests. Egg shells from previous juveniles could be found beneath the new eggs. Studies on parental interaction with juvenile house geckos are unknown. (Frankenberg, 1982; ; Selcer, 1990)
Mediterranean house geckos can live for up to 8 years in captivity. In Turkey, Kanay and Tok (2015) examined wild-caught museum specimens, and found that adult females were 4-9 years old and males were 4-8. No animals were discovered older than 9. In Texas, Selcer (1986) found that annual turnover for adults (3 years or older) was 55%. Oddly, juvenile survivorship was as high as the adults, unless juveniles were below 30mm SVL. If smaller, survivorship was lower. (Kanat and Tok, 2015; Selcer, 1986)
Mediterranean house geckos are nocturnal. In Florida, Punzo (2001) reported that between 2100-2359 h, these geckos were most active.
Many agnostic behaviors are performed. Behaviors such as avoidance, warning, aggression, and sensory have been observed. When avoiding other geckos or species, behaviors such as retreat and freezing occur. Warning behaviors include “facing off” with another species, tail wagging, squeaking, push - ups, and back arching. Characteristics of aggressive behaviors involved snapping of the jaws, chasing and fighting. Sensory behavior includes nose tapping and tongue flicking.
Male geckos can present aggressive behavior when male intruders entered their territory. When house geckos exhibit warning behavior, residents responded with warning behavior. Juveniles avoid interaction with adult house geckos due to their aggressive behavior when in favorable conditions. Male house geckos demonstrate the most aggression towards juveniles. House geckos can also make diverse noises and clicking patterns when trying to mate. House geckos also flick their tongues at trespassers. Males produce clicks in order to maintain dominance within a clan of geckos. Copulatory biting is also done by males in order to attract a mate. Mediterranean house geckos also use their sense of smell as well as pheromones to hunt and sense predators. Vision is used when hunting for prey. Selection of prey is dependent on if prey is alive. (Briggs, 2012; Punzo, 2001)
Klawinski (1991) found the mean size of home range of Mediterranean geckos was slightly more than 4 m^2 and that there was no difference among adult males, adult females, and juveniles. However, the sampling intervals for the study were about 6 weeks within a calendar year. There is no information on how much adult male, adult female, or juvenile geckos move on their home building during an entire season of activity or from year to year. Territoriality is selective to the juvenile house geckos.
Klawinski also reported maximum linear movements of 18 meters – and that distance was pretty rare. Those individuals that did move this distance would return to their original area. Movement patterns are not different between adult male and female house geckos. Juveniles are more likely to move longer distances than adults. (Klawinski, 1992; ; Paulissen, et al., 2013)
Mediterranean house geckos have varied squeaky vocalizations differ by age and sex. Juveniles can demonstrate calls that are loud, melodic, or have melodic inflection. Frankenberg (1982) observed that noisy squeaks are made when adults would move toward the juvenile. Harmonic inflections are produced when adults make physical contact with the juvenile. Juveniles only vocalize when threatened. Female vocalizations are the same as juveniles except they vary in length. Short, noisy calls are a response approving male suitors. When attacked by another species, they make long, noisy calls. Melodically inflected, long calls during the act of breeding means females want to be released from males. Indefinite melodic squeaks are made when females are threatened by another species. Males have the most diverse of vocalizations. They produce the same squeaks as females and juveniles. However, their most common vocalization is a series of clicks. Dominant, territorial males make this noise when males, females, or a bunch geckos are around them. They are also used to attract mates. Males will click in time with female squeaks. They can also repeat the same short, noisy squeaks as females. Long, noisy squeaks are generated during defense or conflict with another species. Loud, melodic inflection is made when threats are detected.
When encountering other species like Indo-Pacific house geckos (Hemidactylus garnotii), Mediterranean house geckos remained grouped in their community and avoided contact.
Senses such as smell, and chemical communication are used to detect intruders and hunting. Smell is used to let a gecko know of its environment. Geckos flick their tongues at intruders. Their tongues pick up chemicals/pheromones that help them communicate with other geckos. (Frankenberg, 1982; Frankenberg, 1984)
Mediterranean house geckos eat a variety of species. They primarily eat insects, pillbugs, and small crustaceans. Spiders and non–flying arthropods are also commonly eaten. Mediterranean house geckos are also visual eaters. They are selective about what food they will eat depending on if their prey is alive or dead. Rose and Barbour (1968) observed how live mealworms were more commonly selected over the reported spring diets consisting of 57% caterpillars (N=21 individuals). In summer, 25% of the diet consisted of earwigs, mosquitoes, leafhoppers, and ants (N=38).
Gecko size differences factor how much house geckos will eat. Juveniles consumed prey such as leafhoppers and true flies that are usually smaller, while adult geckos consume larger prey, such as grasshoppers, caterpillars, and pillbugs. Microhabitats can also shape their diets. Geckos that inhabit buildings almost exclusively eat grasshoppers.
Predators of the Mediterranean house gecko include spiders, whip scorpions, cats (Felis catus), bats, and Cuban tree frogs (Osteophilus septentrionalis). Predation pressures are low for house geckos due to constant activity around street lights and distance from shelter. Low predation causes house geckos to maintain a low mortality rate. Male and female house geckos release loud and noisy squeaks when attacked and melodically inflected squeaks when threatened. Male house geckos’ defense squeaks average at 5 kilohertz. Female defense squeaks average at 4.5 kilohertz.
Juvenile and hatchlings use bright tails with bands on them as a mechanism to distract predators. Wagging of tails are used to distract potential predators from eating the geckos. Predators attack tails and juveniles can escape, tails will regenerate over time (Frankenberg, 1982; Punzo, 2001; Williams and Lance, 2007)
Mediterranean house geckos can become infected with a pentastomic crustaceans, Raillietiella frenatus and Raillietella teagueselfi. In Texas, a sample of 136 geckos revealed parasites in 52 individuals. These parasites included one species of liver fluke Mesocoelium meggitti and three tapeworms Mesocestoides, Oochoristica ameivae and Oochoristica scelopori. Roundworm parasites included Cosmocercoides variabilis, Oswaldocruzia pipiens, Parapharyngodon cubensis, and Physaloptera larva.
House geckos don't experience significant predation, but can be preyed upon by bats, cats, and large frogs. They eat a variety of insects. (McAllister and Bursey, 2016; Pence and Selcer, 1988; Riley, et al., 1988)
Mediterranean house geckos are occasionally collected and kept as pets. (Agasyan, et al., 2009)
Mediterranean house geckos are considered an invasive species in the U.S and elsewhere. They are known to transmit salmonella to humans. (Weterings and Vetter, 2018)
Mediterranean house geckos are a species of "Least Concern" on the IUCN Red List. They have no special status on the U.S. Federal List, CITES, and in the State of Michigan.
Within its native European range, these geckos are "a protected faunal species" under Appendix III of the Bern Convention. Prtoctions are limited to them inhabiting already-protected places.
These species have been invasive in many areas outside their native Mediterranean range. They are believe to be the most common invasive gecko in Florida, and have a high tolerance of both extreme heat and cold. Their range across Europe and non-native North American is suspected to expand in light of climate change. Weterings and Vetter (2018) predicted that Mediterranean house geckos are the most like species to invade habitats that no other member of this invasive genus has yet invaded.
Clearly, there are no conservation measures in place. Indeed, there are efforts to keep these geckos out of new territories (e.g., in Australia). The genus, as a whole, is suspected to outcompete native reptiles, as these geckos are tolerant of human habitation and respond favorably to artificial light. Despite these worries, there are no active, large-scale efforts to remove geckos from their invaded ranges. (Agasyan, et al., 2009; Weterings and Vetter, 2018)
Jayla Smith (author), Radford University, Lauren Burroughs (editor), Radford University, Layne DiBuono (editor), Radford University, Lindsey Lee (editor), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, Galen Burrell (editor), Special Projects.
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.
living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.
uses sound to communicate
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
a substantial delay (longer than the minimum time required for sperm to travel to the egg) takes place between copulation and fertilization, used to describe female sperm storage.
ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates
animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature
union of egg and spermatozoan
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
Animals with indeterminate growth continue to grow throughout their lives.
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.
This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.
active during the night
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
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
breeding is confined to a particular season
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
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
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
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