"Acting Silly With Ciliatus” – The New Caledonian Crested Gecko

What was once lost, was found again – and many people are smiling around the world (and dare I say what was once thought to be lost is smiling as well)!

Long believed extinct, the New Caledonian Crested Gecko (also known as the Guichenot’s Giant Gecko or the Eyelash Gecko) and officially as Rhacodactylus ciliatus, is a species of gecko native to southern New Caledonia. Would you believe that it was actually rediscovered in 1994 after a tropical storm?

Along with several other Rhacodactylus species, it is being considered for protected status by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).

Sigh …

The biggest threat to the wild population of these geckos seems to be the introduction of the fire ant (Wassmania auropunctata) to New Caledonia. These ants actually prey on the geckos themselves, stinging and attacking them in great numbers. They also compete with the geckos for food by preying on various arthropods and insects.

All seriousness aside though for a moment ….

I have a question for you. How long is your tongue? It’s probably not every day that you are asked this question (I assume) but seriously … how long is your tongue?

Why am I asking you this today? Well …

Can you lick your own eye with your tongue? Let me show you something that can!

I realize this was not a video of a Rhacodactylus ciliatus … but it is of a close cousin of sorts: Rhacodactylus auriculatus. But lucky for us, the two species differ in so few ways from each other.

Oh! Did you also happen to notice that this gecko has no eyelids? No, it’s not a freak of nature! I swear!

The crested gecko shares this same trait … or should I say, lack-thereof with several other gecko species. Instead of eyelids, they instead have a transparent scale, or spectacle (brille), over their eyes. This scale helps keeps the eyes moist. And when it get’s dirty … a quick slurp and lick is all that’s needed to clear away the debris!

Sure beats awkward eye drops and eye washes/rinses eh?

Unfortunately, if a crested gecko drops/loses its tail, it will not regrow as it does in some other gecko species.

Drop a tail? Huh? What? Did I say drop a tail? Indeed I did … now allow me to explain!

The cells around the base of their tails are actually brittle which allows the tail to break away (caudal autotomy) when threatened or caught by a predator. The capillaries to the tail will close almost instantly so there is little to no blood loss at all. The tail will then move independent of the body for approximately 2 to 5 minutes – just long enough to distract a predator and enable the gecko to escape! The loss of their tail is thankfully not problematic, and most adults in the wild do not even have their tails. Creepy to some yes … but an amazing and effective defensive ability!

The exportation of wild New Caledonian Crested Geckos has been long since been banned.

So how did they become such a well-established and prominent feature of the pet trade? Biologists actually exported several specimens for breeding and study before the practice of exporting them was outlawed (I can almost hear the collective sigh of relief from fellow crested gecko enthusiasts). These biologists then established several different breeding lines within the US and Europe and … well … the rest is ancient history!

The Crested Gecko is now one of the most widely kept and bred species of gecko in the world, alongside the Leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularis).

This omnivorous gecko can be fed a variety of feeder insects such as crickets, a homemade Crested Gecko Diet, as well as non citrus fruits such as papaya, melon, mango, banana, peach, pear and apricot. I’ve always had great luck with a delicious mixture of peach and mango – always a hit and well if I dribbled a little on my finger … no harm done!

So if you’re thinking of keeping a crested gecko (or two … three … because seriously, who can stop at just one?!?) … how long are you on the hook for in terms of caring for them? While they have not been kept in captivity long enough for a definitive life span determination, it is believed that they can live for approximately 15 to 20 years. Are you ready to make a serious, lifelong commitment?

If you answered yes, then here’s a couple of great books you might want to take a closer look at for some more in-depth captive husbandry information on how to care for the nocturnal crested gecko (yes, it tends to sleep during the day … envious yet?):

Not sure if a crested gecko is for? Okay … tell you what … how about a few photos to whet your appetite? At the risk of being accused of anthropomorphizing yet again … who can resist these silly smiles?

By Candace, SaveTheReptiles.com


About Candace M Hansen

Wildlife advocate, conservationist and environmentalist.
This entry was posted in Captive Care - Lizards, Featured Articles, Lizards. Bookmark the permalink.

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