Scientific Name: Hemidactylus turcicus / Common Names: Mediterranean Gecko
By boats, trucks or planes, the Mediterranean Gecko is by far the most successful stowaway of all North American lizards. This is the most warty species of the four species of house geckos, its head, body, legs and tail covered with prominent tubercles. Adults may reach 5 in. (13 cm) TL. Like all house geckos they are rather flattened, with large heads, bulging eyes with vertical pupils and covered with an immoveable clear spectacle. It is usually darker brown or gray with darker spots by day than at night, when it may appear a ghostly white. Irregular dark markings across the head and back may disappear at night. The tail has dark bands, which are especially prominent in juveniles. The belly is white and somewhat translucent.
Habitat and Range
The most widely introduced lizard in the United States, the Mediterranean Gecko is found on all major Hawaiian Islands. The Mediterranean Gecko can be expected throughout Florida and the southern tier of counties in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. It is found at least in scattered colonies throughout most of Louisiana, and throughout the southern third of Texas, including the Big Bend region. North and west of this range (Arkansas, Arizona, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma and South Carolina) these geckos are found in scattered locations centering on urban areas. As its name implies, its native range includes coastal areas around the Mediterranean and Red Seas, East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and east to Pakistan.
House geckos are often found lurking on walls or ceilings near lights, waiting to ambush moths and other insects. Mediterranean Geckos are very vocal at night. Males make chirping calls, possibly to defend territories. Often they make a squeaking sound when picked up. Females lay pairs of oval white hard shelled eggs above ground, under loose bark, palm fronds or other protected location. They are a communal nesting species. They are preyed upon by cats, large spiders and Cuban Treefrogs. A female’s clutch of two eggs may amount to 25% or more of her body weight.
The Mediterranean Gecko and Amerafrican House Gecko have enlarged tubercles on the back, whereas the Indo-Pacific Gecko may have small tubercles restricted to its dorsum or dorso-lateral rows, and the Common House Gecko has only small or no tubercles. In the Mediterranean Gecko the toepads of the fourth toe reach to the base of the toe, however in the Amerafrican House Gecko, these pads do not extend to the base of the toe. The Common House Gecko has rows of enlarged spines encircling the tail, whereas in the Indo-Pacific Gecko spines are only found scattered along the edges of the tail. Only the last two species are known from Hawaii, however all four species of House Geckos (genus Hemidactylus) have been reported from Florida. The Mediterranean Gecko is the only House Gecko species known outside of Florida, Hawaii or Texas. (Feral Indo-Pacific Geckos have been found on the grounds of the Dallas Zoo. A single specimen of the Common House Gecko, Hemidactylus frenatus, was captured in 1988 in the Port of Galveston. None have been observed since, and the specimen is considered to have been a stray that did not establish a breeding population.).
Conservation & Other Threats
This species is a ferocious colonizer, and is capable of displacing native nocturnal climbing geckos wherever they come in contact. Between 2000 and 2005, 24 reports of new US locations for Mediterranean Geckos have been published. The lizards have shown an astonishing ability to hitchhike around the country on produce trucks and other conveyances. From a single specimen found in Brownsville Texas in 1950, Mediterranean Geckos had dispersed north along highways into most of southern Texas by the 1970's. Ironically, despite its early introduction and aggressive spread, this species is being displaced in much of southern Florida by the other three species of house geckos.
This species profile relies heavily on: Bartlett & Bartlett 1999; Davis 1974; McKeown 1996; Meshaka et al. 2004; Selcer 1986; Punzo 2001