Lepidodactylus is a genus of geckos consisting of 45 extant species with new species discovered regularly. They are a part of family Gekkonidae and share similar traits with other genera in the family, including their tropical habitat range. Species of Lepidodactylus are widespread amongst the Pacific Islands and are most successful in environments with little competition from other species. One of the most notable species within Lepidodactylus is Lepidodactylus lugubris due to their ability to undergo parthenogenesis, making a nearly unisexual species composed of females with several distinct lineages. The relationship between L. lugubris and the rest of the genus is still actively investigated, especially when regarding ancestry and hybridization amongst species. (Brown and Obrien, 1993; Eliades, et al., 2021; Karin, et al., 2021)

Geographic Range

Members of Lepidodactylus are found across multiple islands in the Oriental and Australian regions. Evidence suggests a combination of natural and human-mediated dispersal between the islands, resulting in different species populations. Asexual populations tend to be more widespread and evenly distributed throughout islands while sexual populations occupy smaller regions close to beaches. L. lugubris, the asexual species of the genus, can be found as an invasive species in other tropical regions such as Central America. (Bursey and Goldberg, 1996; Eliades, et al., 2021; Hanley, et al., 1994; Hoogmoed and Avila-Pires, 2015)


Habitats vary between species of Lepidodactylus, especially when comparing sexual versus asexual populations (L. lugubris). While both populations can exist together, L. lugubris use larger areas of habitat and have a larger range of prey. Sexual populations primarily live in tropical lagoons and urban centers within islands while asexual populations are more evenly distributed throughout. Some sexual species, such as L. pantai, are limited in their habitat ranges based on species richness and do better with low species diversity Both populations are active during the evenings when they hunt for prey and hide during the day in small shelters such as holes, bark, and cracks. Moreover, L. lugubris is considered an invasive species on many islands. (Bosch and Páez, 2017; Brown and Obrien, 1993; Hanley, et al., 1994; Karin, et al., 2021)

Systematic and Taxonomic History

Lepidodactylus was first described in 1843 by Leopold Fitzinger. The genus is in the family Gekkonidae and evidence to support this arrangement remains strong. (Feng, et al., 2007; "Lepidodactylus", 2011; Uetz and Hallermann, 2021)

Physical Description

Lepidodactylus species are small geckos, with the smallest species in the genus having a snout the size of 33mm. They are primarily tan, grey, and/or brown and their patterns differ between species. Most patterns consist of repetitive stripes and spots that blend well into their environments. Some members of the genus, such as L. lugubris, have small spines on their tails. Other species can differ in head size, tail size, and scansor morphology. (Bosch and Páez, 2017; Eliades, et al., 2021; Hanley, et al., 1994; Karkkainen, et al., 2020)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike


Sexual species of Lepidodactylus are known to mate with multiple conspecifics and males may exhibit aggression towards other males to defend mates. L. lugubris reproduces asexually through parthenogenesis. The number of clutches laid can alter based on dominance hierarchies between L. lugubris, with dominant females laying more clutches per year. (Brown and Obrien, 1993; Buden, et al., 2015; Hanley, et al., 1994)

Mating behaviors differ between the bisexual species of Lepidodactylus and the asexual species, L. lugubris. L. lugubris is parthenogenetic and reproduces by cloning, with all offspring genetically identical to the parent. Nearly all offspring are female and are limited to two eggs per clutch, reproducing year-round. Males within the species are rare and are often infertile. Female members of L. lugubris have been documented breeding with other male species of Lepidodactylus, suggesting hybridization. Sexual species of Lepidodactylus are more aggressive and compete for mates, unlike the asexual species. (Brown and Murphy-Walker, 1996; Brown and Obrien, 1993; Buden, et al., 2015; Griffing, et al., 2019; Hanley, et al., 1994; Ota, 1994)

Lepidodactylus species have similar investments to other geckos within Gekkonidae. Eggs are adhered to surfaces above the ground to prevent predation and are abandoned after being laid. L. lugubris, the asexual Lepidodactylus species, prefer to lay their clutches in preexisting nest sites already containing other eggs. (Brown and Obrien, 1993; Grzimek, et al., 2003)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


Lepidodactylus species have been documented living between 2-4 years in captivity and in rare cases, up to 5 years. Currently, there are not a lot of data about the lifespan of wild Lepidodactylus species. (Brown and Obrien, 1993)


Lepidodactylus species are typically solitary, with L. lugubris being known to establish dominance hierarchies in small populations. Dominance hierarchies influence habitat and resource usage as well as fecundity, with dominant females generally consuming more prey and having more clutches per year than subordinate females. Sexual species of Lepidodactylus are more likely to show intraspecific aggression, especially if they are of the same sex. Aggressive behaviors are used to defend mates, resources, and shelters. Asexual and sexual populations alike have been documented coexisting together without conflict and can occasionally hybridize. Like many other gecko species, members of Lepidodactylus can voluntarily drop their tails if threatened and can subsequently regrow them. Lepidodactylus species are most active during dusk and dawn when they hunt. (Brown and Obrien, 1993; Grzimek, et al., 2003; Hanley, et al., 1994; Short and Petren, 2008)

Communication and Perception

Lepidodactylus species are primarily visual species and use body language to communicate with others. Both sexual and asexual species show aggression via lunging toward others. Dominant females within the asexual species L. lugubris exhibit these behaviors more often than subordinate females. Similar to other gecko genera, Lepidodactylus species are ambush predators and rely on sight to detect prey. L. lugubris has also been documented to avoid areas contaminated with feces compared to bisexual species, making L. lugubris less susceptible to parasites. The exact mechanisms for recognizing feces remain unknown, however.

Although there are not a lot of data on individual Lepidodactylus species in regards to vocalization, species within the genus are known to make chirping noises. Chirps may be used similarly to other Gekkonidae species to warn others in the area of their presence and to communicate. (Bosch and Páez, 2017; Brown, et al., 1998; Grzimek, et al., 2003; Short and Petren, 2008)

Food Habits

Species of Lepidodactylus prey on amphipods, insects, and other arthropods. L. lugubris are known to be generalists and feed on a wider variety of invertebrates than sexual species, although sexual species tend to hunt larger prey. (Grzimek, et al., 2003; Hanley, et al., 1994)


Lepidodactylus species, similar to other Gekkonidae species, have the ability to drop their tails if threatened by a predator. This ability can be used to escape if caught, or the tail can be dropped in advance to distract a potential predator because the tail wiggles for a brief period of time after being detached. Lepidodactylus species also have cryptic coloration to match tree bark, rock, and other textures in their environment to avoid being detected. Larger lizards are known predators to Lepidodactylus species. (Grzimek, et al., 2003; Karin, et al., 2021)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic
  • Known Predators
    • Other lizards

Ecosystem Roles

There are not a lot of data on the specific ecological roles of Lepidodactylus species. However, some species, such as L. pantai, are known to live in areas of low species diversity to occupy higher niches in smaller food webs. They are often unsuccessful in establishing populations in communities with several lizard species, as they become widely preyed on. Lepidodactylus species as a whole are predators of insects and arthropods and are prey for larger lizards within their ecosystems. L. lugubrs members are invasive in certain regions. Although specific details of their impacts on non-native ecosystems have not been studied, typical implications of invasive species hold for these populations, such as increased competition and biodiversity loss. (Bosch and Páez, 2017; Karin, et al., 2021; Short and Petren, 2008)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Although several species in Lepidodactylus do not have significant positive effects on humans, L. lugubris is an exception. Because L. lugubris have the ability to clone themselves, they are useful in lab settings. L. lugubris are also known to be kept recreationally as pets and can thrive under human care. (Trifonov, et al., 2015)

  • Positive Impacts
  • pet trade
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Some species of Lepidodactylus are invasive in certain regions, notably L. lugubris. However, the effects of these populations on humans are not well-understood. Typical implications of invasive species are present such as competition with local fauna, although it is not clear if there are adverse effects on humans. (Case and Bolger, 1991; Short and Petren, 2008)

Conservation Status

Generally, the conservation status of Lepidodactylus species is of Least Concern or listed as Data Deficient by the IUCN Red List. L. listeri was classified as Extinct in the wild in 2017 after being Critically Endangered in 2014 despite efforts to protect the species. The reintroduction of the species to the wild was not deemed practical due to wolf snake (Lycodon) predation. L. listeri remains the only species in the genus to be classified as Extinct in the wild. (Cogger, et al., 2017; "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species", 2022; "Lepidodactylus listeri — Christmas Island Gecko, Lister's Gecko", 2020)

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated

Other Comments

The common name of L. lugubris, the mourning gecko, has an interesting origin due to the species being entirely female. The species communicates through chirps, and it was said the chirps were the mourning of a lack of a mate. (Foose, 2018)


Janna Novak (author), Colorado State University, Audrey Bowman (editor), Colorado State University, Sydney Collins (editor), Colorado State University.



Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


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


reproduction that is not sexual; that is, reproduction that does not include recombining the genotypes of two parents


an animal that mainly eats meat


active at dawn and dusk


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.

dominance hierarchies

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


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.

native range

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


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


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


development takes place in an unfertilized egg

pet trade

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


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.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


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


lives alone


Living on the ground.


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


uses sight to communicate

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


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