Mediterranean House Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus*)
Mediterranean House Gecko (juvenile), Puerto Penasco, Sonora. Photo by Jim Rorabaugh
The Mediterranean House Gecko is the only member of the family Gekkonidae in Arizona, and the only lizard likely to be seen clinging to walls at night in and around homes and other buildings. This is a small (< 60 mm snout-vent length, < 130 total length) tan to light pink nocturnal lizard often with dark blotches on the back and dark bands on the tail and sometimes the limbs that fade with age. Prominent and keeled, white or cream dorsal tubercles are arranged in irregular, longitudinal rows on the back that extend onto the tail. On the underside of the fingers and toes are expanded adhesive pads that run the length of the digits. This gecko has large eyes without lids, but with vertically elliptical pupils. The only other gecko in Arizona is the Western Banded Gecko, which is unlikely to be found in cities and towns, it does not climb walls, it lacks dorsal tubercles, and it has eyelids.
The Mediterranean House Gecko is native to western India, the Arabian Peninsula, Somalia, and the Mediterranean region, but has been introduced to the Canary Islands, many localities in South, Central, and North America; and islands in the Caribbean and Hawaii. The first observations and collection of the Mediterranean House Gecko from the United States were at Key West in 1910. It has now been reported from 22 of the United States, and is established in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. The Mediterranean House Gecko has been in the Phoenix/Tempe area since at least 1965 and the first collections or observations of this species in other Arizona localities are as follows: Tucson (1970), Mesa (1979), Yuma (1986), Chandler (1986), Ehrenberg (1988), Douglas (1998), 8 miles N of Needles near Hwy 95 (2002), Lake Havasu (2002), and Parker (2003). Tom Brennan’s Reptiles and Amphibians of Arizona website indicates the species also occurs in Casa Grande, Gila Bend, Marana, and probably Littlefield in Mohave County. It likely occurs at many other cities and towns in southern and western Arizona. Its documented elevational range in the state is 55 meters at Yuma to 1222 meters at Douglas. The Mediterranean House Gecko is probably limited by winter cold and not expected to occur at elevations much higher than at Douglas. In Sonora, it is known to occur at Bahía Kino, El Golfo de Santa Clara, Puerto Peñasco, and San Luis Río Colorado.
Because of its association with people, the Mediterranean House Gecko is unintentionally moved from place to place in moving vans, trailer homes and recreational vehicles, and construction materials and other goods carried by truck or train. Their first arrival in a country is often at a port city, so they no doubt are transported by boats and ships, as well. It is an exceptionally good colonizer because the females can store sperm for up to four months, increasing the likelihood that a population can be initiated with the introduction of a single female. Clutches of two eggs are laid that hatch in 45-90 days depending on temperature. Multiple clutches are typically laid each year, and in warmer areas of Arizona, reproduction probably occurs throughout most of the year. Egg deposition sites are in walls or debris around structures and several females may use the same deposition site, so that many eggs or egg shells can be found in the same location. Hatchlings are 20-30 mm snout-vent length. The Mediterranean House Gecko feeds upon a variety of invertebrates, such as moths, caterpillars, ants, beetles, and grasshoppers. They are often found on walls at night hunting for insects attracted to porch lights. Juveniles, males, and females produce squeaks and clicking noises during social interactions or when distressed; however, these vocalizations are not very loud and rarely heard. At a business in Tucson, a Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister) was found swallowing a Mediterranean Gecko (S. Jacobs, pers. comm. – see image gallery). In Glendale, Arizona, a Tiger Whiptail preyed upon an adult Mediterranean Gecko (J. Rorabaugh, pers. obs.).
Although an introduced species, there is no evidence that this species is spreading into native vegetation or habitats in Arizona, so it is unlikely to compete with or displace any native herpetofauna. Other introduced geckos now occur in southern Texas, Florida, Georgia, Sonora, and Baja California, so there is a good likelihood that additional gecko species could arrive and become established in southern Arizona.
Brennan, T.C., and A.T. Holycross. 2006. Amphibians and Reptiles in Arizona. Arizona Game and Fish Department, Phoenix, AZ.
Degenhardt, W.G., C.W. Painter, and A.H. Price. 1996. Amphibians and Reptiles of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
Howland, J.M. 1998. Mediterranean Gecko. Wildlife Field Notes, May 1998:13.
Robinson, M.D., and C.W. Romack. 1973. The Mediterranean Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus), a species new to the herpetofauna of Arizona. Journal of Herpetology 7(3):311-312.
Rorabaugh, J.C., and J.A. Lemos Espinal. 2016. A Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Sonora, Mexico. ECO Herpetological Publishing and Distribution, Rodeo, New Mexico, USA.
Author: Jim Rorabaugh