Patterico's Pontifications


Gecko News

Filed under: Environment — DRJ @ 10:38 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

You see this all the time on the internet: “Read the whole thing.” If you have 5-10 minutes to spare, read this Fort Worth Star-Telegram article on the gecko. It will educate you and make you laugh. And who doesn’t need a good gecko laugh?

If you don’t have the time, here are some highlights:

North central Texas has had abundant rain and a corresponding increase in insects, and therefore it has lots of geckos:

“You open your mailbox, a gecko skitters to the back. You glance out the window at night, and a gecko stares back at you. You open the drapes in the morning and — eek! — a small creature scampers away.

What the heck-o is up with the gecko?
The species that everyone’s seeing in the Fort Worth area these days is the Mediterranean house gecko (scientific name: Hemidactylus turcicus). [Villanova University Professor Todd] Jackman says it hitchhiked its way across the ocean on airliners or ships sometime in the ’50s and gradually worked its way northward.”

Little-known gecko facts:

The tale of the tail: You try to trap that gecko with a glass so you can take it outside and the next thing you know its tail is flopping around on its own, separate from the rest of the body. Geckos will lose their tails when attacked, Jackman says. The tails continue to wriggle and then the attacker, usually a bird, concentrates on eating the tail, allowing the gecko to escape. Like many lizards, geckos have the ability to regenerate their tails.

Sticky feet: No, geckos do not have tiny suction cups on the bottoms of their feet allowing them to scamper up walls and across ceilings. What they do have, Jackman says, are millions of little brittle, hairlike structures that interact with the surface of the structure they cling to. The hairs interact with the surface the gecko’s feet are on at an atomic (ie. electron) level. Companies like DuPont and 3M are very interested in discovering an adhesive that works like gecko feet, Jackman says.

Don’t blink!: About half of all gecko species, including the Mediterranean house gecko, do not have movable eyelids, Jackman says. The lidless geckos will lick their eyeballs to clean them.

Some people take a live-and-let-live approach to geckos:

“The best way to deal with geckos in your home is to learn to love them, says Patrick Prather, of Rid-All Pest Control in Fort Worth, an organic pest-control company.

“A lot of our customers strive to keep the geckos in their house,” Prather says. “I have about a half dozen of them that live in my house, and we just let them do their thing. I have one that lives in my coat closet, I have one that lives in an ivy plant, I have one that lives behind the refrigerator. You hardly ever see them except maybe at night when you turn on the light. Most people have them living in the garage. I have one that’s 6 inches long that lives in the corner behind the drapes in the living room. They’ll keep all the insects cleaned up off the potted plants.”

If you’re not quite as open-minded about lizards as Prather, simply pick up geckos you encounter in your home by the center of the body (not the tail, it will come off) and carry them outside. And remember, they eat insects that annoy you.”

The article concludes with an overview of geckos in the arts, commerce and the news, including this sticky tidbit:

“A gecko made the cover of Nature magazine on July 19. Researchers constructed an artificial surface that mimicked the tiny hairs of the bottoms of the gecko’s foot, and they coated it with a substance similar to the excretion that mussels use to stick to rocks. The combined gecko/mussel surface worked moderately well as an underwater adhesive. The research could lead to important applications for things like surgery and, oh, underwater sticky notes.

There’s even an extensive section on Geico gecko trivia, which you can no doubt use to impress your friends and family. I know I will.


6 Responses to “Gecko News”

  1. We had these when we were stationed in Okinawa. My daughter, 3 at the time was sitting on the curb one day holding something. I walked up to her and asked her what she was doing. She held up the gecko and said “I’m petting my pet”.
    They were very welcome in the homes in Okinawa because they ate the very large cockroaches found in the islands of that region.

    Voice of Reason (10af7e)

  2. It’s smart to keep one around just for insurance.

    allan (c5ea4f)

  3. A gecko story from Lawdog

    Lawdog is a cop in a small East Texas town who has a lot of good stories, and he knows how to tell them.

    James (c5eede)

  4. Awesome, James. I’m hooked on the LawDog.

    DRJ (d48e2d)

  5. Yeah, but can they save me money on my car insurance?

    MunDane (d3328f)

  6. I live in Fort Worth and the house I owned for about 18 years had a family of geckos that lived there. The article is correct that they eat the bugs you don’t want and they are fun to watch.

    Sharon (222425)

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