Northern Australian Gecko Lizards


There are many beautiful gecko lizards in Cape York.

They are small tropical lizards very abundant in northern Australia, including tropical north Queensland and Cape York peninsula.

They are nocturnal insect eaters with large eyes,
vertical pupils and distinctive gecko feet.

Not many live in tropical rainforests, most like dry habitat.


The best known are house geckoes, but we do also have other ones.

house gecko

House Geckoes
House gecko lizards are well known to us because we see them daily in our homes. 

What not everyone thinks about is that there are two kinds - the native house geckos, and the introduced Asian house geckos.


leaf tailed gecko
by codiferous via Flickr.com

Leaf Tailed Geckoes
Some of the most amazing geckos are leaf tailed geckoes. They are masters of camouflage on tree barks, and they are some of the few kinds that live in rainforest. In north Queensland, we have at least four - Phyllurus isis, Phyllurus ossa, Phyllurus nepthys; and Saltuarius cornutus (Cape York).


velvet gecko
by Arthur Chapman via Flickr.com

Velvet Geckoes

Velvet geckos also look great with their patterns, and they live in dry forest and woodland. We have Oedura castelnaui (Tip of Cape York to Mareeba), Oedura coggeri (Palmer River, Lockhart River), and Oedura rhombifer (Mount Cook in the north to Mackay in the south).


mourning gecko
by ntenny via Flickr.com

Mourning Gecko
Mourning gecko lizards can be similar to house geckoes but they have a distinctive w-shaped pattern with darker flecks on their cream body. They live in open woodland, mangrove swamps, and also urban areas, from Torres Strait Islands in the north to Bowen and Heron Island in the south. 


bynoes gecko
By _Nathan_Johnson via Flickr.com

Bynoe's Gecko

Another pretty one is Bynoe's Gecko, with a brown to grey body and pale and dark flecks, in a broken band pattern. It lives in open forest and tropical woodland, and in Queensland it is found from Cooktown in the north to Mackay in the south, and it is also found in other states in Australia.


ring tailed gecko
by berniedup via Flickr.com

Ring Tailed Gecko
Ring tailed gecko lizards belong to Cyrtodactylus family and they have beautiful dark bands all across their pale body and long, slender tail. They live in rainforest and open forest, and they are found in north Queensland, from McIlwraith Ranges in the north to Mount Molloy in the south.


House Gecko Lizards

House gecko lizards live in tropical northern Australia.

If you live in northern Australia then the word 'gecko' immediately brings to mind the species you can see at home, even though there are many other species of geckos in Australia.

House geckos are cute to watch, but they can also become annoyingly numerous and are often regarded as household pests.

However, there is one species whose damage goes beyond
households, and unfortunately it's a very common one.

There are at least 60 species of geckos in Australia.

Only a couple live in people's houses, and only one is introduced - all the rest are native.

What Are House Geckoes?

Originally tree dwellers, house geckos have cleverly adapted to the life in people's houses, where they have some great advantages for survival.

Obviously, human dwellings provide them some pretty good shelter which makes it easier to hide from predators than by just laying under a log.

The main food of geckos is insects. Particular favourites are moths, mosquitoes and cockroaches but they eat any insects and spiders that they can get.

People's houses attract insects and provide great opportunities to catch them.

As soon as you turn on a ceiling light, there will be insects attracted to it, and there will be geckos catching the insects in your ceiling. 

   house gecko lizard
    House gecko lizard.
©cape-york-australia.com

What Good Are House Geckoes?

They clean the house from insects, and some of their particular favourites are the insects that we mostly dislike, such as mosquitoes and cockroaches.

They also look cute and make a cute noise that is so easy to become familiar with that you soon start associating it with your home.

That's unless you hate them..

   native house gecko
    Native house gecko. ©cape-york-australia.com

Do They Have Any Disadvantages to Us?

Yes house gecko lizards do annoy people, they can get too numerous, they can also pooh a bit, including in kitchen cupboards and plates..

They are also known to destroy electrical appliances such as computers and air conditioners, by climbing in to them, and stepping onto wrong parts (motherboards), causing
short-circuiting.

I have also read about them shorting out lights and ruining remote controlled roller doors.

However they are NOT poisonous and they don't harm humans physically in any way.

   house gecko lizards
    The introduced species, Asian House Gecko.
©cape-york-australia.com

What Kinds Are There?

The most common one you see is unfortunately the only introduced species - Asian House Gecko.

It was
accidentally introduced from Asia, and it has been so successful that it has taken over the niche from native house gecko species.

There are a few different native ones, the one that we have in Cape York and Queensland is dubious dtella (Gehyra dubia).

Native House Geckoes

There are a few different native house geckos in Australia.

There is also at least one in the Kimberleys, but the one we have in north eastern Australia and Cape York peninsula, is the Eastern or dubious dtella (Gehyra dubia).

It's a beautiful little gecko that is seen less and less since the infamous Asian species is increasingly moving into its niche.

It has made the native geckos move out of the houses and back into trees.


The native ones are more brownish grey while the introduced species is rather pink, but there are several other clues to distinguish the two.

   native house gecko
    Queensland's native species, Dubious dtella (Gehyra dubia), By Arthur Chapman via Flickr.com.

Appearance

Its length without tail is about 6cm, and with the tail about 14cm.

On its brownish grey surface it has a darker mottling pattern with lighter spots.

The pigments sometimes form lines along the back or between the eyes and the neck of the animal.

Like other geckos, it has eyes with vertical pupils and no eye-lids. Like many other geckos, it also has the ability to drop its tail when threatened.

As opposed to the Asian House Gecko that has spines along the tail, the native one has a smooth skin with no spines.

Another difference is that it has no claws on inner toes while the Asian species has claws on all the toes.

Behaviour of the Native House Gecko

The native house gecko changes its colour a bit and tends to be lighter and lose its pattern when foraging.

But there is an unmistakeable difference - the loud chuck-chuck-chuck call of the Asian species.

Like their Asian relatives, the native ones are agile geckos, quick to move, and they eat insects of all kinds that they can catch and swallow.

They breed and lay their eggs during the Wet Season.


   native house geckos
    Queensland's native species, Dubious dtella (Gehyra dubia), By Arthur Chapman via Flickr.com.

Habitat and Range

They are found in north eastern Australia in almost all of Queensland (throughout the Great Barrier Reef, Cape York and Torres Strait), and in northern New South Wales. They are also found in Papua New Guinea.

They do live in houses if they can, but as the Asian House Gecko is overtaking their niche, they are often found outside, in forests, woodlands and
rocky outcrops.

They live in shrubs and trees, and hide under loose bark. They prefer dry habitat.

Asian House Gecko

Asian house gecko is now a common gecko in our homes.

You sure know them if you ever lived or stayed for long enough in northern Australia.

Their chuck-chuck-chuck call is so familiar, you can hear it inside houses, and it's loud enough that you can also hear it outside, in people's yards, in trees, everywhere.

They are cute and they are fun to watch as they chase insects on your balcony.


However, there is one thing - they don't belong here.

As their name says, they are not from Australia, and there are native house geckoes that they compete with about the niche.

As most introduced animals, they are doing a good job - it's the Asian species you see most often, not the native house geckos.

   asian house gecko

Appearance of the Asian House Gecko

Also called Pacific or Common House Gecko, Hemidactylus frenatus is about 10cm long, and has a grey to pale pink body, with some mottled darker patterning on the upper side, and a paler underbelly.

It can change its colour to a certain extent, and tends to be darker during the day and paler during the night.

Unlike the native house gecko it has spines along the tail and lower back.

It also has claws on all of its toes while the native Dtella does not have any on the inner toes.


Behaviour and Habitat

But the most obvious difference is its chuck-chuck-chuck call, which is distinctively loud.

It is seen in and around buildings and homes, where it is chasing insects which is its main diet.

It also eats spiders and even other, small lizards, but it does go eating scraps too if you have an open bin or forget something on the kitchen table!

They live about five years.

Distribution in Australia

As the name says, the gecko is native to Asia, and has been accidentally introduced to tropical and subtropical areas of many other continents.

In Australia, it was first seen in Darwin in the 1960s, and then in far north Queensland in the 1970s and Brisbane in the 1980s. It has now also spread to New South Wales and Western Australia.

   asian house geckos

Impact of the Asian House Gecko

Like with most introduced species, it has been very adaptable - it is the most successful introduced reptile in Australia.

It is spreading south and also from urban (where it was most common for starters) to rural areas.

It is competing about food and habitat with the native house gecko, which it has already widely outcompeted from its habitat.

Being so successful and efficient predators, they are also known to kill baby huntsman spiders, thereby also affecting the populations of the natural predators of huntsmans, and the whole food chain.

Like always with introduced species, accidentally or not, they put the ecosystem out of balance. Like with many other introduced species including cane toads, getting rid of them is impossible.






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