Mediterranean Geckos have become a fairly common sight around houses and garages in Central Texas. Although some folks might be creeped out a little by these critters running over the walls or scurrying out of sight near a porch light at night, rest assured--they are completely harmless.
As well, they are very beneficial and very efficient at gleaning insects that are attracted to your porch light. In fact, at my home in NW Austin, if I turn on a porch light and hope to photograph any moths that might arrive, I have to be "quicker than a gecko" to get my pics before the moths become a gecko's late night snack (...or is it breakfast for them?).
Geckos are fun to watch, but frankly, after seeing dozens at my house and seeing them regularly on buildings at the Refuge (e.g. right outside my office), I get rather ho-hum about them. Just another gecko. However, our new biologist Jim Mueller (more about him later) brought a gecko to the office in a small critter cage today and it offered us an unusual opportunity to view and photograph a very important but rarely observed part of a gecko: It's toes! Like most lizards, geckos are very adept at running up and down walls and even running around "upside down" on an overhang or eve. Surprisingly, they can even walk on smooth glass or plastic. How do they do that? With uniquely adapted toe pads. This involves minute bristles called "setae
" and some interesting physics known as "van der Waals forces
". I'll have to defer to the experts on Wikipedia to explain this; I invite you to read the section on "gecko toes" here
Here is photographic documentation of their specialized footwear:* * * * *
Below the Line:
You can read more about the Mediterranean Gecko in the following articles:
"Life History of a Successful Colonizer: The Mediterranean Gecko, Hemidactylus turcicus, in Southern Texas." Kyle W. Selcer. 1986. Copeia 1986(4):956-962.
"Factors Affecting Range Expansion in the Introduced Mediterranean Gecko, Hemidactylus turcicus." Kenneth J. Locey and Paul A. Stone. 2006. Journal of Herpetology 40(4):526-530.