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Geckos are lizards found in the family Gekkonidae. They are reptiles belonging to the order Squamata and most geckos are small to medium sized. The name gecko is derived from the Javanese (Indonesian) word gekok which imitates the noise geckos make. They are the only lizards who vocalise and communicate with high chirps.
Gecko species can be found in warm climates all over the world. There are about 2000 gecko species known to science but new species are being discovered regularly. An example of this is the fact that the world’s smallest gecko, Jaragua sphaer, was discovered in the Dominican republic in 2001. Jaragua sphaero grows to a size of 16 mm (0.6 inch).
Most gecko lizards lack eyelids which make them easy to distinguish from other lizards. The geckos belonging to the family Eublepharinae do however have eye lids making them harder to separate from other lizards. Instead of an eye lid they have a clear membrane which they lick clean.
Most geckos release a foul smelling material and feces in defence against predators and other perceived aggressors. Many species can also drop their tail to escape predators. The tail later grows back.
Geckos are famous for their ability to cling to any surface, a habit made possible by a myriad of very small hairs on their feet. It is however only some gecko species that are able to perform this incredible feat although all geckos are great climbers. In the best clingers, every square millimetre of each fotpad contains about 14,000 hair-like setae. Each seta is in turn tipped with between 100 and 1,000 spatulae. Each spatula is 200 billionths of a metre. A force called van der Waals interacts between the spatulae and the surface itself and this is what keep the gecko from falling off the surface. The popular leopard gecko does not have spatulae and can not stick to walls.
Several gecko species have moved into our homes and made houses their natural habitat. One such example is the aptly named House gecko. Geckos are generally appreciated house guests as they eat insects. Not all known gecko species are carnivorous however; some eat fruit and nectar instead and prefers to live outdoors where there are plenty of flowers and fruits.
The largest Gecko species is Delcourt’s gecko (Hoplodactylus delcorti) from New Zealand. This species is however believed to have gone extinct during the early 19th century. Delcourt’s gecko was 60 cm long and is only known from one specimen kept in a museum in Marseille, France. As mentioned above, the smallest gecko in the world is Jaragua sphaero which grows to a size of 16 mm (0.6 inch).
Male geckos can be very forceful in their courting of females and it is important to make sure that the females can rest from male advances if kept as pets. If she isn’t given the opportunity to hide and rest, the violent courting may kill her. There are several ways of helping the female out; one is to keep males and females separated, another is to keep enough females with each male to spread the attention around. All gecko species lay eggs.