The Geckos of New Caledonia

New Caledonian Geckos | Crested Gecko | Chahoua Gecko | Gargoyle Gecko | Giant Gecko
Sarasin's Gecko or Suras Gecko | Rough-snouted Gecko | Eurydactylodes | New Caledonia

New Caledonian Geckos

New Caledonian geckos were at one time made up of only one genus, Rhacodactylus geckos. Recently, DNA testing resulted in the re-classification of some of the Rhacodactylus geckos. New Caledonian geckos are medium to large geckos of the subfamily Diplodactylina. All species in this genus are found on the islands that make up New Caledonia.

Genus characteristics include long limbs and toes with well developed lamellae. Some webbing occurs on the hind limbs and toes. These geckos possess prehensile tails which also have lamellae to assist in climbing. All New Caledonian geckos are nocturnal and are arboreal geckos.

Each of these species are egg layers with the exception of Rhacodactylus trachyrhynchus which gives live birth. These geckos are sexually dimorphic, with the males possessing larger preanal pores than the females as well as a distinct hemipene pocket making them relatively easy, once they reach 12-15 grams to visually sex them.

Classification (click here for classification article PDF)

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Rhacodactylus

Rhacodactylus auriculatus

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Crested Gecko

Correlophus ciliatus



Crested Gecko Photo

Correlophus ciliatus

Crested Gecko, Correlophus ciliatus (formerly Rhacodactylus ciliatus)

Correlophus ciliatus or Crested Geckos are the most widely known species of gecko native to southern New Caledonia. The specific name, ciliatus, is Latin: Cilia means "fringe" or "eyelash" and refers to the crest of skin over the animal's eyes that resemble an eyelash

Crested Geckos were thought to be extinct until its rediscovery in 1994, on the Isle of Pines, a tiny island just off the coast of New Caledonia. The rediscovery sparked much excitement amongst gecko hobbyists, but I don‘t think anyone could predict how these geckos have taken off. Due to their docile nature and easy care requirements, the Crested gecko is now one of the most commonly kept geckos in the world.

Crested Geckos belong to the Rhacodactylus family, which is native to New Caledonia. They are semi-arboreal, spending most of their time in small trees and low shrubs. They will however, seek out hiding places near the ground to sleep during the day.

Their size ranges from 7-8 inches total length 3.5-4.5 inches nose to vent length

This species was thought extinct until it was rediscovered in 1994. Along with several other Rhacodactylus species, it is being considered for protected status by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.

The Crested Gecko has distinct structural morphs in head size and crests in abundance. Geckos with a head length less than 1.3 times its width are considered "crowned" Crested Geckos. They can vary in the amount and size of the crests; some have crests that extend to the base of the tail and some lack crests on one side of their body.

The Crested Gecko has no eyelids; a transparent scale, or spectacle, keeps its eyes moist and it uses its tongue to clear away debris. Like all Rhacodactylus geckos, it has webbing on its legs and digits. They are a mostly arboreal species, preferring to inhabit the canopy of the New Caledonian rainforests. They are primarily nocturnal and will generally spend the daylight hours sleeping in a secure hiding place close to, or on the ground.

The Crested Gecko, unlike the closely related Gargoyle Gecko (Rhacodactylus auriculatus), will not regrow its tail once lost. The loss of their tail is not problematic, it is a natural defense mechanism and most adults in the wild do not have their tails.

Though the export of wild New Caledonian Crested Geckos is now prohibited, biologists exported several specimens for breeding and study before the practice was outlawed. From these specimens, different breeding lines were established both in Europe and the United States. The Crested Gecko is now one of the most widely kept and bred species of gecko in the world. In captivity they can be fed crickets, Crested Gecko Diet (mrp), and some non citrus fruits such as melon, mango, banana, peach, apricot, and pear.

These geckos can be very long lived. While they have not been kept in captivity long enough for a definitive life span determination, they are thought to live for 15–20 years.

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Chahoua Gecko, Mniarogekko chahoua (formerly Rhacodactylus chahoua)

Commonly known as the Mossy New Caledonian, short-snouted or Chahoua gecko is an arboreal gecko found natively on the southern portion of the island of New Caledonia and on the outlying islands of Ile de Pines and Grande Terre. R. chahoua is currently being evaluated by CITES as a possible candidate for protective status. R. chahoua gets its common name from the moss or lichen-like pattern it displays. Colors range from rusty red and brown to green or gray. There has been some notation that color could possibly be a geographic indicator in this species as the geckos from the outer islands most often display the lighter gray patterns. It commonly reaches a snout to vent length (SVL) of 5.5 inches.

R. chahoua, like all of the Rhacodactylus geckos are omnivores. Their diet in the wild consists of various insects and fruits. They may also consume small lizards as part of their natural diet.

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Mniarogekko chahoua

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Gargoyle Gecko

Rhacodactylus auriculatus

Gargoyle Gecko, Rhacodactylus auriculatus

A species of gecko found only on the southern end of the island of New Caledonia. Its habitat is threatened by deforestation on the island. This gecko, along with several other Rhacodactylus species are being considered for protective measures by CITES, which would put restrictions on their exportation.

More commonly known as the Gargoyle gecko, this reptile gets its name from the cranial bumps that give the appearance of horns or ears. Other characteristics of this gecko include a thin tail, which will regenerate if it drops off, thin toe pads, and mite pockets found on the rear legs.They occur in many colors, including varying shades of grays, browns, reds, white and orange with varying patterns of blotches and striping. They are commonly captive bred for particular traits like striped and colored reticulated varieties.

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Giant Gecko, Rhacodactylus leachianus

More commonly referred to as the Leachie gecko is the largest of the Rhacodactylus geckos. At 12-14 inches in total length, it is one of the largest, if not the largest, gecko in the world. R. leachianus is currently being evaluated for protected status by CITES. There are three recognized subspecies of R. leachianus: R. l. aubrianus, R. l. henkeli (first described by Seipp and Obst in 1994), and R. l. leachianus.

R. leachianus is a nocturnal arboreal species of gecko. It makes its home in the highest treetops on the island of New Caledonia. Its range includes all of the southern and eastern portions of the main island as well as several of the smaller islands in the group. This is a heavy bodied gecko with very loose skin and a small, stumpy tail. R. leachianus feeds on insects and fruit. It will also occasionally consume smaller lizards and in captivity and some may even eat newborn mice.

Many of the locals in New Caledonia call this gecko "the devil in the trees" because of the growling noises it makes when interacting with others of its species or as defense mechanism. R. leachianus can live up to 20 years in captivity and requires a large, spacious enclosure and as is the case with all arboreal species, the cage should be vertically oriented.

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Giant Gecko

Rhacodactylus leachianus

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Roux's Giant Gecko

Correlophus sarasinorum

Sarasin's Gecko, Correlophus sarasinorum (formerly Rhacodactylus sarasinorum)

Sarasinorum Gecko, also called Sarasin's Gecko or Suras Gecko, is a species of gecko found on the southern portions of the outlying New Caledonian island of Grande Terre. R. sarasinorum is currently being evaluated by CITES for protective status and is considered vulnerable to extinction in many herpetological circles. It has been found only in six locales in its native habitat.

Since there is a considerable variation in snout to vent length (SVL), which ranges from 3.5 to 5.5 inches, it has been suggested that more than one subspecies exists; there is no universal consensus on this point.

The basic color of the suras gecko is brown to gray. Two color patterns exist. A white spotted version is the recessive trait, and a white "v" pattern is the dominant trait.

R. sarasinorum is nocturnal, and less arboreal than the other Rhacodactylus geckos. It is often found hiding under the leaf litter or under loose bark. This species has an animal instinct of sleeping on top of plants or in small trees face up preventing the common Floppy Tail Syndrome caused by the gecko sleeping upside. It is an omnivore, and eats insects and fruit in the wild, also considered frugiverous.

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Rough-snouted Gecko, Rhacodactylus trachyrhynchus

found in central and southern New Caledonia and on the outlying New Caledonian island of the Pines. This gecko is considered to be in danger of extinction due to disappearing habitat and is being considered for protected status by CITES.

The common name of R. trachyrhynchus refers to the enlarged scales that cover its snout. Other characteristics of this gecko include broad toes and a prehensile tail. R. trachyrhynchus has a mottled color pattern, generally a grayish-green to brown mixed with white. Its snout to vent length (SVL) is usually around 190mm. The Greater Rough-Snouted Gecko (Rhacodactylus trachyrhynchus trachyrhynchus) is the second largest Rhacodactylus known. It is also the largest live-bearing gecko in the world. Although its numbers are not currently on the endangered list, it is the rarest of the Rhacodactylus in captivity.

There are two sub-species of R. trachyrhynchus:
  • R. t. trachyrhynchus (Mentioned above)
  • R. t. trachycephalus

Reaching approximately 10 inches in length, the Lesser Rough-Snouted Gecko (Rhacodactylus trachyrhynchus trachycephalus) is the smaller dwarf island sub-species of this live-bearing gecko. It's captive numbers are only slightly more numerous than the Greater Rough-Snouted Gecko, but it is one of the rarest reptile species in the world, having it's entire habitat range contained on an island approximately four square blocks in size.

Like all Rhacodactylus geckos, R. trachyrhynchus is an omnivore. Its diet consists mainly of insects and fruit, and can include as well small lizards and nestling birds and rodents

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Tough-snouted Giant Gecko

Rhacodactylus trachyrhynchus
Photo courtesy: Hemisferio Reptiles

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Roux's Giant Gecko

Eurydactylodes agricolae

Eurydactylodes

Eurydactylodes is a small genus of geckos, found on the main island of New Caledonia. These geckos are arboreal and predominantly shrub-dwellers which do not retire to hiding-places even at daytime. They inhabit moist rainforests and similar forests lining the rivers. The species include:

  • Eurydactylodes agricolae, this species of gecko reaches a total length of between 4-5 inches and are covered in a very interesting scalation pattern. They are covered with fairly large scales that do not touch one another and are separated by the skin between them. Like the geckos of the genus Strophurus, they can emit a foul smelling and sticky secretion through their tails. These are the only genus of gecko that have this ability on the planet. These geckos are found in NW New Caledonia and near Koumac. They inhabit low vegetation such as shrubs in cool rainforest habitats.
  • Eurydactylodes symmetricus “Symmetrical Gecko”
  • Eurydactylodes vieillardi “Bavay's Gecko” Similar to Eurydactylodes agricolae - this species of gecko gets slightly larger and are also covered in a very interesting slight different scale pattern. They enjoy a somewhat drier and warmer environment and are very rare in U.S. collections.
  • Eurydactylodes occidentalis

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New Caledonia

New Caledonia (French:Nouvelle-Caledonie) is a dependent overseas territory of France lying in the western Pacific Ocean, in the Coral Sea, to the east of Australia and west of Vanuatu. The territory consists of the main island of Grand Terre, the Isle of Pines, the archipelago of the Loyalty Islands to the East, and numerous small, sparsely populated islands and atolls. New Caledonia is the third largest island in the Pacific Region after Papua New Guinea and New New Caledonia SymbolZealand. Unlike its volcanic neighbours, New Caledonia is a fragment of an ancient continent which drifted away some 250 million years ago. Its flora and fauna evolved in isolation, and are now quite unique: 3500 recorded species of plants, three quarters of which occur only here; 4300 species of land animals, 1000 species of fish, 6500 species of marine invertebrates.

Grand Terre is the main island in New Caledonia. It is one of the largest islands in the Pacific. The barrier reef lying off New Caledonia is second only to the Great Barrier Reef in size.

The Isle of the Pines lying just to the South is one of the few places in the Pacific with trees tall and was frequented by sailors because if offered trees sturdy enough to provide replacement masts for ships.

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Roux's Giant Gecko