Common House Gecko

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Common House Gecko
Hemidactylus frenatus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Sauria
Family: Gekkonidae
Genus: Hemidactylus
Species: H. frenatus
Binomial name
Hemidactylus frenatus
Schlegel, 1836[1]

The Common House Gecko, scientific name Hemidactylus frenatus (not to be confused with the Mediterranean species Hemidactylus turcicus known as Mediterranean house gecko) is a native of southeastern Asia. It is also known as the Pacific house gecko, the Asian house gecko, or simply, the house lizard. Most geckos are nocturnal, hiding during the day and foraging for insects at night. They can be seen climbing walls of houses and other buildings in search of insects attracted to porch lights, hence their name "House Gecko". Spread around the world by ships, these geckos are now common in the Deep South of the United States, large parts of tropical and sub-tropical Australia, and many other countries in South and Central America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. They grow to a length of between three to six inches (about 7.5–15 cm), and live for about five years. These small geckos are non-venomous and harmless to humans. Medium to large geckos may bite if distressed, however their bite is gentle and will not pierce skin.

A tropical gecko, Hemidactylus frenatus thrives in warm, humid areas where it can crawl around on rotting wood in search of the insects it eats. The animal is very adaptable and may prey on insects and spiders, displacing other reptiles.

Like many geckos, this species can lose its tail when alarmed. Its call or chirp rather resembles the sound "gecko, gecko". However, this is an interpretation, and the sound may also be described as "tchak tchak tchak" (often sounded three times in sequence). In Asia/South East Asia, notably Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, geckos have local names onomatopoetically derived from the sounds they make: Hemidactylus frenatus is called "chee chak" or "chi chak" (pr: chee chuck), said quickly. Also commonly spelled as "cicak" in Malay dictionaries. In the Philippines they are called "butiki" in Tagalog, or "tiki" in Visayan, and in Thailand "jing-jok" (Thai: จิ้งจก). In India and Pakistan they are called "chhipkali"(Urdu:چہپکلی, Hindi: छिपकली), from chhipkana, to stick. In India they are called "Jhiti piti" in Oriya language, "Gawli" or "Palli" in Malayalam language: ଝିଟିପିଟି). In Bangladesh they are called "tiktiki" (Bangla: টিকটিকি) as they make sound like "tik tik tik". In Central America they are sometimes called "Limpia Casas" (Spanish: Housecleaners) because they reduce the amount of insects and other arthropods in homes.

Description[edit]

Juvenile Common House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus next to a US penny.
Adult House Gecko - This one resides in a garage near Phoenix, Arizona.
Chirping call of a Singapore house gecko or "cicak".

The coloration of the animal is brown, tan, and cream above. This tint can be uniform in colour, or more or less distinctly marbled with darker markings. The head is generally variegated with brown. On the side of the head, a more or less defined brown streak, light-edged above, passes through the eye and in some individuals extends along the side of the body. The lower surface of the animal is whitish-gray.[2] The tail has alternating light-brown and whitish-gray colored bands which are more black and white towards the tip of the tail.

In this species, the snout is longer than the distance between the eye and the ear-opening, and is 1.3 to 1.5 times the diameter of the orbit. The forehead is concave and the ear-opening is small and roundish.

The body and limbs are moderately sized. The digits are moderately dilated and free; the inner one has a sessile claw. There are 4 or 5 lamella under the inner digits, 7 or 8 (seldom 9) under the fourth finger, and 9 or 10 under the fourth toe.

The upper surfaces of the body are covered with small granules. The largest granules are on the snout; on the back these granules are intermixed with more or less numerous irregularly scattered round convex tubercles which are always much smaller than the ear-opening, and which are sometimes almost entirely absent. The granules on the back are often light-white colored.

The nostril is pierced between the rostral, the first labial, and three nasals. There are 10 to 12 upper and 8 to 10 lower labials. The mental is large, triangular or pentagonal. There are two or three pairs of chin-shields, the median is in contact behind the point of the mental.

The abdominal scales are moderate in size, cycloid and imbricate. The male has a series of 30 or 36 femoral pores, which are not interrupted on the preanal region.

The tail is rounded, feebly depressed, and covered above with very small smooth scales and six longitudinal series of keeled tubercles. The underside has a median series of transversely dilated plates. The tail serves in many species as an energy or fat like storage which the animal uses under abnormal feeding conditions. They are also used in territorial posturing, male house geckos lift their tails and vibrate it briefly to ward off other males. Though fragile, the tail regenerates to its original shape if detached.

Distribution[edit]

A house gecko in Austin, Texas, that has caught a spider.

Worldwide in tropical and subtropical regions:

  • Australasia:
    • Indonesia (Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Bali, Lombok, Sulawesi, Ambon)
    • China (Hunan, Hainan, S Yunnan), Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan
    • New Guinea, Fiji (introduced)
    • Philippines (Palawan, Panay, Calamian Islands, Luzon etc.), Japan (Ryūkyū, Bonin Islands)
    • Andaman Islands, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Nicobar Islands, Pakistan
    • Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Malaysia, Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia
    • Polynesia, Micronesia (Caroline Islands: Pohnpei), Melanesia, Solomon Islands
    • Australia (Cook Island, CKI, Northern Territory, coastal Queensland, coastal Northern New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, Norfolk Island)
    • Western Samoa, New Caledonia
    • Introduced to Mariana Islands (Guam) and New Caledonia
    • Marshall Islands
  • Africa (all introduced):
    • Somalia (Lanza 1990)
    • South Africa
    • Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion, Rodrigues, Comoro Islands (Mayotte), Nossi Be = Nosy Bé (probably Nosy Mitsio, Seychelles,
  • Americas:
    • El Salvador, Mexico (Yucatán and Baja California), Belize, Guatemala, Panama, Honduras, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Venezuela (Falcon, Lara, Miranda, Monagas, Aragua, Carabobo, Yaracuy)
    • Trinidad and Tobago
    • USA (North Carolina in boxes,Arizona, Hawaii, Florida, Georgia, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, Tennessee, California)
    • Brazil

House geckos in captivity[edit]

House geckos can be kept as pets in a vivarium with a clean substrate, and typically require a heat source and a place to hide in order to regulate their body temperature, and a system of humidifiers and plants to provide them with moisture.

The species will cling to vertical or even inverted surfaces when at rest. In a terrarium they will mostly be at rest on the sides or on the top cover rather than placing themselves on plants, decorations or on the substrate, thus being rather inconspicuous.

Invasive species[edit]

Hemidactylus frenatus is an introduced species to many countries and considered to be a pest[3] and a "serious threat species"[4] to local wildlife. While the gecko's impact has not yet been studied closely, it has been identified as a "generalist predator"[5] which competes with native geckos for resources[6] and has also transferred disease-carrying mites to the native species.[7] There is evidence that the Asian house geckos can compete with and perhaps replace locally native gecko species, especially in urban areas.[4] They have also been known to chew electrical wiring and cause appliances, such as air conditioners, to break.[6]

Superstition[edit]

Two wall sculptures of geckos on the wall of the Mandapam of the Siva temple inside Vellore fort, Tamil Nadu, India (2012)

Geckos are considered poisonous in many parts of the world including India. In Southeast Asia, geckos are believed to be carriers of good omen. In some parts of India, the sound made by geckos is considered a bad omen; while in Bangladesh, it is considered to be an endorsement of the truthfulness of something that was being said just before as the sound "tik tik tik" coincides with "thik thik thik" (Bangla:ঠিক ঠিক ঠিক) which in Bangla means "right right right"; a three times firm confirmation. The cry of a gecko from the east wall as one is about to embark on a journey is considered auspicious, but a cry from any other wall is supposed to be inauspicious. Gecko falling on the right shoulder of someone is considered good omen, but if it drops on the left shoulder, it is considered a bad omen. In Punjab, it is believed that contact with the urine of gecko will cause Leprosy.[8]

In some places in India, it is believed that watching a lizard on the eve of Dhanteras is a good omen or a sign of prosperity.

An elaborate system of predicting good and bad omens based on the sounds made by geckos, their movement and the rare instances when geckos fall down from roofs has evolved over centuries in India.[9][10]

In Yemen and other Arab countries, it is believed that skin diseases result from geckos running over the face of someone who is asleep.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "ITIS Standard Report Page: Hemidactylus frenatus". ITIS Report. ITIS-North America. Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  2. ^ Boulenger, G. A. (1890) Fauna of British India. Reptilia and Batrachia.
  3. ^ "Photo guide to pest animals". Daff.qld.gov.au. 2012-11-07. Retrieved 2013-12-14. 
  4. ^ a b "Pest animal risk assessment : Asian house gecko". Daff.qld.gov.au. Retrieved 2014-02-02. 
  5. ^ "Gecko invasion spreads". Gympie Times. 2012-01-13. Retrieved 2013-12-14. 
  6. ^ a b "Asian house gecko". Daff.qld.gov.au. 2012-10-09. Retrieved 2013-12-14. 
  7. ^ Nicky Phillips (2013-02-09). "Geckos become the reptile rulers with successful invasion". Smh.com.au. Retrieved 2013-12-14. 
  8. ^ "The Folklore of Geckos : Ethnographic Date from South and West Asia". Nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp. Retrieved 2014-02-02. 
  9. ^ "ഗൗളിശാസ്ത്രം | Mashithantu | English Malayalam Dictionary മഷിത്തണ്ട് | മലയാളം < - > ഇംഗ്ലീഷ് നിഘണ്ടു". Dictionary.mashithantu.com. Retrieved 2013-12-14. 
  10. ^ "Hindu Omens". Oldandsold.com. Retrieved 2013-12-14. 

References[edit]

  • Cook, Robert A. 1990 Range extension of the Darwin house gecko, Hemidactylus frenatus. Herpetofauna (Sydney) 20 (1): 23-27
  • Darevsky I S; Kupriyanova L A; Roshchin V V 1984 A new all-female triploid species of gecko and karyological data on the bisexual Hemidactylus frenatus from Vietnam. Journal of Herpetology 18 (3) : 277-284
  • Edgren, Richard A. 1950 Notes on the Neotropical population of Hemidactylus frenatus Schlegel Natural History Miscellanea (55): 1-3
  • Edgren, R. A. 1956 Notes on the neotropical population of Hemidactylus frenatus Schlegel. Nat. Hist. Misc. 55: 1-3.
  • Jerdon, T.C. 1853 Catalogue of the Reptiles inhabiting the Peninsula of India. Part 1. J. Asiat. Soc. Bengal xxii [1853]: 462-479
  • McCoy, C. J.;Busack, Stephen D. 1970 The lizards Hemidactylus frenatus and Leiolopisma metallica on the Island of Hawaii Herpetologica 26 (3): 303
  • Norman, Bradford R. 2003 A new geographical record for the introduced house gecko, Hemidactylus frenatus, at Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico, with notes on other species observed. Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society. 38(5):98-100 [erratum in 38(7):145]
  • Ota H 1989 Hemidactylus okinawensis Okada 1936, junior synonym of H. frenatus in Duméril & Bibron 1836. J. Herpetol. 23 (4): 444-445
  • Saenz, Daniel;Klawinski, Paul D. 1996 Geographic Distribution. Hemidactylus frenatus. Herpetological Review 27 (1): 32

External links[edit]