Reptiles Database

Order Squamata
Suborder Gekkota

Family Gekkonidae (Geckoes)

by Jonathan Boone and Boris Klusmeyer

Gekko gecko gecko (Tokay)
One of the first described species of this family

Number of species: about 1180 (including 1 species in the genus Aeluroscalabotes 22 species in the subfamily Eublepharinae).

Appearance:In general, geckos may be divided into 2 primary groups: species with immovable, or fixed, eyelids (Gekkoninae, Teratoscincinae, and Diplodactylinae), and species which possess a movable eyelid (Aleuroscalabotinae & Eublepharinae). Geckos which possess fixed eyelids can be further divided on the basis of the presence (arboreal), or lack of presence (generally terrestrial), of sub-digital lamellae. Normally, the tail length of most gecko species is nearly equal to the snout-vent length and is expressed in a great variety of textures, shapes, and sizes. Additionally, the presence of either round pupils (diurnal) or vertically oriented pupils (nocturnal) helps to distinguish several genera. A number of arboreal species exhibit a stunning degree of beautiful green, red, and blue coloration (notably, species of Phelsuma and Naultinus). Finally, scalation characteristics range from the tile-like network (smooth, cycloid, imbricate) to be found on Teratoscincus, Geckolepis, and Teratolepis, to among some of the most minute, velvety-textured, granular scales exhibited in several Oedura species.

Size: Among the genera which attain the smallest of size, the Sphaerodactylus species must surely be the most recognized, with several growing to only 30 mm in total length. The largest recorded species are Rhacodactylus leachianus, Gekko gecko, Gekko smithi, Uroplatus fimbriatus and Saltuarius cornutus, with total lengths in excess of 350 mm. Presently, Rhacodactylus leachianus is regarded as having the greatest snout-vent length of 240mm, with a tail length of less than the 50% of the snout-vent length. The largest known (recent) fossil species are Phelsuma gigas (total length more than 500mm) and Hoplodactylus delcourti (total length of the only known specimen measures 622mm). Both species are presumed extinct, yet the possibility for the continued existence of the latter has been recorded.

Distribution: Geckos occur worldwide. The greatest diversity of species inhabit the deserts, tropical and sub-tropical regions.

Habitat: Terrestrial and arboreal.

Food: Insects (for the majority of species), small reptiles (also other geckos), occasionally rodents. Some species have been recorded to eat fruits and nectar.

Behavior: Predominantly nocturnal. Some genera are diurnal (Gonatodes, Phelsuma, Roptropella, Rhoptropus, Quedenfeldtia). Some genera exhibit the interesting peculiarity of having both diurnal and nocturnal activity (even with some individual species exhibiting both). Examples include: Agamura, Pristurus, Ptyodactylus, Sphaerodactylus and several others.

Reproduction: Oviparous. Most geckoes produce 2 eggs per clutch. They may lay several clutches per year (up to 10, or even more). Some species deliver live offspring (Hoplodactylus sp., Naultinus sp. and Rhacodactylus trachyrhynchus).

Relationships: The systematics of the Gekkonomorpha is in a permanent state of change. Some authors have treated the members of the Aeluroscalabotinae and the Eublepharinae as a combined family, Eublepharidae (GRISMER, 1988). Furthermore, the Diplodactylinae subfamily was included in the family Pygopodidae (KLUGE, 1987). There is little doubt that the higher taxonomic relations are not only subject to lack of universal agreement, but that there will continue to be a great deal of taxonomic concentration with an ensuing variety of explanations in the future.

Jonniaux & Kumazawa (2008) recently showed that the Gekkonidae and Eublepharidae are sister groups that are in turn sister to the Pygopodidae. There results are consistent with treating the Eublepharineae and Gekkoninae as subfamilies and the Pygopodidae as sister family.

Examples: Crocodile geckos (Tarentola sp., Europe and Afrika), Knob tails geckoes (Nephrurus sp., Australia), Leaf tail geckos (Uroplatus sp., Madagascar), Leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius, Central Asia), New Caledonian Giant Gecko (Rhacodactylus leachianus, New Caledonia), Tokeh (Gekko gecko, South East Asia).

Examples for
Aeluroscalabotes felinus
South East Asia
Eublepharis macularius
Central Asia
Pseudogekko smaragdinus
Pollilo, Philippines
Teratoscincus scincus
Central Asia
Rhacodactylus ciliatus
New Caledonia

List of Genera (find missing genera among the synonyms by using the search function above):

Subfamily Aeluroscalabotinae

Subfamily Eublepharinae

Jonniaux & Kumazawa (2007) recently confirmed morphological studies by Grismer (1988) showing that the Eublepharidae can be split into 2 subfamilies, the Aeluroscalabotinae and the Eublepharinae.

Subfamily Gekkoninae

Briba and Cosymbotus have been synonymized with Hemidactylus by CARRANZA & ARNOLD (2006). However, Cosymbotus craspedotus was not included in this study and synonymization has thus been postponed in this database. Bauer & Russell (1995) have synonymized Dravidogecko with Hemidactylus.

Gamble et al. (2008) recovered a monophyletic trans-Atlantic gecko clade (Phyllodactylidae) consisting of the genera Asaccus, Haemodracon, Homonota, Phyllodactylus, Phyllopezus, Ptyodactylus, Tarentola and Thecadactylus.

Subfamily Teratoscincinae

Subfamily Diplodactylinae

Some authors consider the Diplodactylinae as family, Diplodactylidae (e.g. Good et al. 1997). Lucasium has been synonymized with Diplodactylus.


Bauer,A.M. (1994)
Liste der rezenten Amphibien und Reptilien: Gekkonidae I (Australia)
Das Tierreich, Vol. 108, W. de Gruyter & Co. (Berlin)

Bauer, A.M. & Lamb, T. (2005)
Phylogenetic relationshipsof southern African geckos in the Pachydactylus group (Squamata: Gekkonidae).
Afr. J. Herpetol. 54 (2): 105-129

Barts, M. & Hulbert, F. 2004
Die Geckos der Welt.
Draco 5 (18): 4-17

Bauer, A.M. and A.P. Russell 1993
Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles No. 565: 1-4

Bauer-A-M. Good-D-A. Branch-W-R. (1997)
The taxonomy of the Southern African leaf-toed geckos (Squamata: Gekkonidae), with a review of Old World "Phyllodactylus" and the description of five new genera [Haemodracon, Dixonius, Cryptactites, Goggia, Afrogecko; reinstatement of Euleptes].
Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci. 49 (14): 447-497.

Berghof, H.-P. (2005)
Natur und Tier Verlag, Münster, 144 pp.

Carranza, S. and E.N. Arnold (2006)
Systematics, biogeography, and evolution of Hemidactylus geckos (Reptilia: Gekkonidae) elucidated using mitochondrial DNA sequences.
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 38 (2): 531-545

Donnellan, S.C. et al. (1999)
Molecular evidence for the phylogeny of Australian gekkonid lizards.
Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 67: 97-118

Gamble, Tony; Aaron M. Bauer, Eli Greenbaum & Todd R. Jackman (2008)
Out of the blue: a novel, trans-Atlantic clade of geckos (Gekkota, Squamata).
Zoologica Scripta

Good, D. A., A. M. Bauer & Sadlier, R.A. (1997)
Allozyme evidence for the phylogeny of giant New Caledonian geckos (Squamata: Diplodactylidae: Rhacodactylus), with comments on the status of R. leachianus henkeli.
Aust. J. Zool. 45: 317-330

Grismer,L.L. (1988)
Phylogeny, Taxonomy, Classification, and Biogeography of Eublepharid Geckos
in: Estes,R. & Pregill,G. (eds.)
Phylogenetic Relationships of the Lizard Families
Stanford University Press
ISBN 0-8047-1435-5
pp. 369-469

Jonniaux P, Kumazawa Y. (2008)
Molecular phylogenetic and dating analyses using mitochondrial DNA sequences of eyelid geckos (Squamata: Eublepharidae).
Gene 407(1-2): 105-15

Kluge,A.G. (1987)
Cladistic relationships in the Gekkonoidea (Squamata: Sauria)
Misc. Publ. Mus. Zool. Univ. Michigan 173: 1-54

Kluge, A. G. (1993)
Gekkonoid Lizard Taxonomy
International Gecko Society (San Diego)

Kluge, Arnold G. (2001)
Gekkotan lizard taxonomy.
Hamadryad 26 (1): i-ii, 1-209

Jonniaux P, Kumazawa Y. (2008)
Molecular phylogenetic and dating analyses using mitochondrial DNA sequences of eyelid geckos (Squamata: Eublepharidae).
Gene 407(1-2): 105-115

Ota,H. et al. (1999)
Phylogenetic relationships of eublepharid geckos (Reptilia: Squamata): a molecular approach.
Zoological Science 16: 659-666

Rösler,H. (1995)
Geckos der Welt: alle Gattungen
Urania-Verlag, Leipzig, 255 pp.
ISBN 3-332-00549-9

Rösler, H. (2000)
Kommentierte Liste der rezent, subrezent und fossil bekannten Geckotaxa (Reptilia: Gekkonomorpha).
Gekkota 2: 28-153

Seufer,H. (1993)
Keeping and Breeding GECKOS
t.f.h. Publications, Inc.,
ISBN 0-86622-218-9

Welch,K.R.G. (1994)
Lizards of the World - A Checklist: Geckos
KCM Books, Somerset; 165 pp.
ISBN 1-85913-024-0

Wermuth,H. (1965)
Liste der rezenten Amphibien und Reptilien: Gekkonidae, Pygopodidae, Xantusiidae.
Das Tierreich, Vol. 80, XXII + 246 pp., W. de Gruyter & Co. (Berlin)

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