8 Great Gecko SurprisesBy Kathy Kranking
These lizards can stick to ceilings, make loud noises, and even lick their own eyeballs! Geckos are amazing!
1. THEY HAVE STICKY (NOT STINKY!) FEET.
Many kinds of geckos have talented toes—they help the lizards climb without falling. Here’s how: On the bottom of a gecko’s toes are small flaps. And on these flaps are thousands of brush-like hairs. The hairs help the gecko stick on when it walks. A gecko can even walk on ceilings or walls without falling off, as this tokay gecko is demonstrating. Ta-da!
2. THEY HAVE BREAK-AWAY TAILS.
Geckos are quick. But a hungry enemy may be quicker. In that case, many geckos, such as this Mediterranean house gecko, have a tricky trick. If an enemy tries to grab it, the gecko drops its tail. Then the tail begins to wiggle, even though it’s not attached to the gecko’s body! The moving tail may distract the enemy while the gecko makes its getaway.
3. SOME CAN FLY (KIND OF).
In its forest home, this Kuhl’s (KOOLZ) flying gecko soars from tree to tree. It isn’t actually flying, though. Along its body, legs, toes, and tail are special skin flaps. When the gecko takes off, it spreads out the flaps. This lets it glide through the air, the same way a flying squirrel does. For escaping an enemy or just getting around, flaps do the job!
4. THEY WON’T WINK AT YOU.
Geckos have great eyesight, especially at night. And since many gecko species are most active at night, that’s a good thing. They can even see colors in the dark. Most geckos have see-through scales over their eyes instead of eyelids. That means they can’t blink to keep their eyes moist or clean. Instead, a gecko just swipes its “windshield-wiper” tongue across its eyes, and it’s good to go!
5. THEY CAN MAKE THEMSELVES “DISAPPEAR.”
Whether hunting for prey or hiding from enemies, most geckos have ways of blending in with their surroundings. They may do this with colors and markings, or even with their body shapes. Can you find the giant leaf-tailed gecko hiding at right? It matches so perfectly with the tree trunk that it looks as if it could be made of bark! The leaf-tailed gecko below has an even trickier disguise. Its body looks just like a dead, twisted leaf. It may even spend the day hanging from a branch just to complete its disguise. Unbeleafable!
6. THEY’RE LOUDER THAN YOUR AVERAGE LIZARD.
Look out! By opening its mouth wide and making a barking sound, this startled gecko is giving a warning to stay away. Though most lizards are pretty quiet, geckos can be very chatty! In addition to barking, they may chirp, click, grunt, squeak, or even growl. Geckos make noises for different reasons, but most often they sound off to attract a mate, warn other geckos away from their territory, or scare off a predator.
7. THEY NEVER NEED A BATH.
Lucky geckos—they have self-cleaning skin! Here’s how it works: A gecko’s skin is covered with tiny, rounded scales. They give the lizard a beaded look, as you can see on this giant day gecko. Some geckos have larger, bumpy scales as well. On top of a gecko’s scales are microscopic, hairlike spines. They’re so tiny that thousands of them together would be the thickness of just one human hair! These spines trap water droplets from rain, dew, or mist. The droplets then join together, picking up things such as dirt, pollen, and dust as they do. When the droplets get big enough, they roll off the gecko’s skin, leaving it clean and dry. Don’t you wish you had self-cleaning skin?
8. THEY MAY BE GOOD LUCK.
In many places in the world, a gecko is a symbol of good fortune. Some people don’t even mind when they come into their houses. The house gecko above right is hunting for bugs attracted to a porch light. And the mourning gecko above has made it inside and is walking on a keyboard!
YUP—GECKOS SURE ARE FULL OF SURPRISES!