Scientific Name: Lepidodactylus lugubris complex / Common Names: Mourning Gecko
Once the most abundant and widespread gecko in the Hawaiian Islands, this short, slow-moving species seems to be losing ground to the more aggressive Common House Gecko. This small, rather stout gecko, only reaches 2.7 - 3.7 in. (7 -9.5 cm) TL. The skin on the back is satiny and lacks tubercles. There is a very characteristic dark line between eyes, with another extending from the tip of the snout through the eye and onto the neck. The back is covered with thin dark wavy chevron markings separating lighter patches. Hatchlings have more contrasting patterns and are less than 1.5 in. (3.5 cm) TL.
Habitat and Range
The Mourning Gecko occurs on all the large Hawaiian Islands as well as Niihau, Lanai and Kahoolawe. This is a very adaptable gecko, found both around residences and in rural, uninhabited areas as well. The species ranges from Sri Lanka eastward across tropical Asia, and across the Pacific to Mexico and Central America. They arrived in Hawaii before Europeans, either by stowing away with early Polynesians, or perhaps by rafting across the Pacific Ocean. Tests have shown that Mourning Gecko eggs are saltwater tolerant, making it likely that these geckos, or their eggs, could drift long distances across the ocean on uprooted trees or mats of vegetation washed out to sea by storms and floods.
An all-female species, the uni-sexual Mourning Geckos are communal nesters, laying pairs of eggs in favored locations such as tree cavities, in leaf axils or under loose bark. Some females seem to take on a dominant role, even showing courtship-like behavior. Active at night searching for insects, they will also lick sweet nectar or juice, sometimes crawling around kitchens to lick juice or jam off counter tops. Its voice is a series of five to ten loud, short chirps, in quick succession. Like other Hawaiian geckos, their eyes are covered by a fused clear spectacle, something like goggles or contact lenses. The long tongue is swept over the eye like a windshield wiper, cleaning dust or other particles off the surface.
The Mourning Gecko is somewhat larger and stouter than the Indopacific Tree Gecko, and has claws on all toes. The Stump-toed Gecko lacks a claw on the inner toes of all four feet. House Geckos are larger, with bigger heads, and their toepads extend to the base of the toe. The Tokay Geckos are much larger and distinctly colored, whereas the Day Geckos are diurnal, green in color and have round pupils.
Conservation & Other Threats
The Mourning Gecko was the most common species of gecko in the Hawaiian Islands prior to the arrival of the Common House Gecko sometime during or just after World War II. The House Gecko is a more aggressive species and out competes Mourning Geckos and Stump-toed Geckos for hunting locations and food, at least near building lights. House Geckos will even eat juvenile Mourning Geckos. Even more recently, the Red-vented Bulbul, a deliberately introduced Southeast Asian bird, has decimated populations of Mourning Geckos and other small lizards.
This species profile relies heavily on: Brown & Duffy 1992; McKeown 1996; Zug 1991