|Geographic range of U. sikorae in Madagascar|
Uroplatus sikorae is a species of gecko commonly referred to as the mossy leaf-tailed gecko. This species, endemic to Madagascar, is found in primary and secondary forests on the island. It has the ability to change its skin color to match its surroundings and possesses dermal flaps which break up its outline when at rest.
It is a CITES II protected animal due to habitat loss and overcollection for the pet trade.
Taxonomy and etymology
The generic name, Uroplatus, is a Latinization of two Greek words: "ourá" (οὐρά) meaning "tail" and "platys" (πλατύς) meaning "flat". The specific name, sikorae, is a Latinization of the surname of Franz Sikora, an Austrian fossil-hunter and explorer of Madagascar. The species was first described by German zoologist Oskar Boettger but not published until three years after his death. Its common name refers to the mossy-like camouflage patterns and colors of the lizard's skin.
The genus Uroplatus contains 14 species endemic to Madagascar. The species Uroplatus sameiti was considered to be a subspecies of U. sikorae until 2007, when it was proposed to be elevated to species level on the basis of its pale oral mucosa, in contrast to the dark oral mucosa of U. sikorae. Subsequent publications have maintained this separate status, which has now also been verified molecularly. However, in the most recent review of the taxonomy of the Uroplatus genus, it was revealed that the different colour of the mouth is not diagnostic of these two species, as some U. sikorae species were found to share the light oral pigmentation. The diagnosis of these species based on morphology remains difficult.
Phylogenically, U. sikorae has been placed within a monophyletic complex consisting of three other species of Uroplatus: U. fimbriatus, U. giganteus, U. henkeli, and U. sameiti. This complex represents the larger species of the genus.
Mossy leaf-tailed geckos are nocturnal and arboreal. Their eyes are large and lidless, and have yellow sclera with elliptical pupils, suited for the gecko's nocturnal habits. The mossy leaf-tailed gecko ranges in size from 15 to 20 centimetres (6 to 8 in) when measured from nose to base of the tail. They spend most of the daylight hours hanging vertically on tree trunks, head down, resting. During the night, they will venture from their daylight resting spots, and go off in search of prey.
As with all Uroplatus geckos, the tail is dorso-ventrally flattened. U. sikorae has coloration developed as camouflage, most being grayish brown to black or greenish brown with various markings meant to resemble tree bark; down to the lichens and moss found on the bark. U. sikorae has flaps of skin, running the length of its body, head and limbs, known as the dermal flap, which it can lay against the tree during the day, scattering shadows, and making its outline practically invisible. Additionally, the gecko has a limited ability to alter its skin colour to match its surroundings.
Mossy leaf-tailed geckos are insectivores eating insects, arthropods, and gastropods.
Distribution and habitat
Uroplatus sikorae is endemic to Madagascar. These geckos are an arboreal species relying on their natural camouflage as they dwell among the trees of the Eastern and central tropical forests of Madagascar.
The mossy leaf-tailed gecko is uncommon in captivity and often kept in breeding pairs or trios. They eat a variety of appropriately sized insects including crickets and moths. If breeding is successful in captivity, eggs will be laid every 30 days and take 90 days to hatch.
Habitat destruction and deforestation in Madagascar is the primary threat to this animal's future as well as collection for the pet trade. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) lists all of the Uroplatus species on their "Top ten most wanted species list" of animals threatened by illegal wildlife trade, because of them "being captured and sold at alarming rates for the international pet trade". It is a CITES Appendix 2 protected animal.
- IUCN Red List, retrieved 16 February 2012
- Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Uroplatus sikorae, p. 243).
- Boettger O (1913). "Reptilien und Amphibien von Madagascar, den Inseln und dem Festland Ostafrikas ". pp. 269–375. In: Voeltzkow A (1913). Reise in Ostafrika in den Jahren 1903–1905. Wissenschaftliche Ergebnisse. Vol. 3. Systematische Arbeiten. Schweizerbartsiche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Nägele und Sproesser, Stuttgart.
- Pearson R, Raxworthy CJ, Nakamura M, Townsend Peterson A (2007). "Predicting species distributions from small numbers of occurrence records: a test case using cryptic geckos in Madagascar". Journal of Biogeography. 34: 102–117. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2699.2006.01594.x.
- Ratsoavina FM, Raminosoa NR, Louis EE Jr, Raselimanana AP, Glaw F, Vences M (2013). "An overview of Madagascar's leaf tailed geckos (genus Uroplatus): species boundaries, candidate species, and review of geographical distribution based on molecular data". Salamandra. 49 (3): 115–148.
- Greenbaum E, Bauer A, Jackman T, Vences M, Glaw F (2007). "A phylogeny of the enigmatic Madagascan geckos of the genus Uroplatus". Zootaxa. 1493: 41–51.
- Pianka, Eric R. (2006). Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversity. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 247. ISBN 0-520-24847-3.
- Selim, Jocelyn (31 March 2005). "A Naturalist's Paradise". Discover Magazine. Retrieved 31 October 2008.
- Bradt, Hilary; Garbutt, Nick; Schuurman, Derek (2001). Madagascar Wildlife: A Visitor's Guide. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 144. ISBN 1-84162-029-7.
- "Inclusion of Uroplatus spp. in Appendix II" (pdf). Technical comments in support of amendments to CITES appendices submitted by Madagascar. CITES. 2004. Retrieved 2 November 2008.
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