HABITAT AND RANGE:
The Leopard Gecko lives in dry,
semi-arid regions and deserts. They
favor rocky areas with plenty of
crevices for hiding. They live in
Afghanistan, Pakistan and into
This Gecko measures 8-10 inches long,
with slightly less than half of that
length accounted for by its tail. It has
a broad, flat head and large ear
cavities. As with many lizards, a light
shown through one of its ear openings
can be seen shining through the other.
The scales are rough, with numerous
“warty” bumps on the neck and body.
Adults are typically covered with
chocolate-brown spots on their back and
sides. Some individuals will have brown
bands interspersed with the spots,
making them appear very similar to the
North American Banded Gecko. Two
background colors, or “color phases”,
are commonly seen beneath these spots.
In “normal” or “tan” phase Leopard
Geckos, the ground color is tan or
golden with lighter bands of the same
color across the back and tail. Geckos
showing the “yellow” phase typically
have alternating yellow and purple bands
beneath the brown spots. Hatchlings and
juveniles are more vividly marked than
adults, having alternating broad brown
and yellow or tan bands across the back
and black and white rings on the tail.
As they mature, the brown bands break up
into the spots for which the lizard gets
There is sexual
dimorphism in this species, making it
easy to tell males from females. Males
are generally larger, having broader
heads and thicker tails, in which bulges
clearly indicate the presence of
hemipines. In addition, males have a
V-shaped series of pre-anal pores,
located on their underside, just in
front of the cloaca. These pores are
clearly visible in males and will often
secrete a waxy substance.
Leopard Geckos have adapted well to life
in arid habitats. They are nocturnal,
spending the hot days in cool burrows
underground or in rock crevices. They
rarely venture out to bask and raise
body temperature during the day.
Instead, they absorb heat from the
ground and rocks as they forage for
insects at night. These lizards can, in
fact, withstand remarkably cold
nighttime temperatures while still
remaining active. They are insectivores,
stalking their prey like cats, while
slowly lashing their tail from side to
side. The prey, which may be nearly the
size of its head, is swallowed whole.
Another adaptation that helps the Gecko
survive is its ability to store
nutrient-rich fat in its tail for times
when food is scarce. Unfortunately, some
of this fat reserve may be lost if the
gecko is seized by the tail. Like many
other lizards, it has the ability to
“drop” or lose part of the tail in order
to escape predation. The tail comes off
at specific junctures where the
vertebrae are not solidly linked
together. Like perforated paper, the
tail is made to separate in these
places. Once lost, the tail will be
slowly regenerated. However, there will
be no vertebrae in the new tail segment.
Also, like other lizards, Leopard Geckos
shed their skin in patches as they grow.
Males are aggressively territorial and
will fight until one is driven off.
Injuries are not uncommon. Females are
generally not aggressively and will
coexist with little strife.
They are insectivores, taking any insect
that they are able to swallow whole.
They will also eat arachnids and other
anthropods. In captivity, they will also
take newborn mice. At the Zoo, they get
mealworms and crickets dusted with
vitamins and minerals.
REPRODUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT:
Breeding may occur at any time from
early spring until late summer. Females
at peek breeding age and in good
condition can produce up to five
clutches of eggs per season. Each clutch
typically contains two round, white
eggs, which the female deposits in a
moist chamber, dug into the ground. The
eggs are sticky when first laid, but
become firm soon after. Unlike eggs laid
by true geckos, however, the eggs of the
Leopard Gecko remain soft-shelled. They
absorb moisture through this soft shell
and gain weight as incubation
progresses. Like many lizards, the
temperature at which the eggs are
incubated determines the sex of the
hatchlings. At 79 degrees Fahrenheit,
virtually all of the hatchlings will be
females. At 90 degrees, the majority of
the hatchlings will be males, with an
occasional female hatchling as well. It
is interesting to note that any female
hatched at higher temperatures will be
very aggressive and will show other male
behavior traits. These females rarely
breed. Hatchlings emerge from the eggs
in 6-12 weeks, with the eggs incubated
cooler temperatures taking longer to
hatch than those at higher temperatures
do. The young tear the soft eggshells
open with a pair of small, sharp egg
teeth on their snouts and crawl out.
Hatchlings are 3 to 3 ½ inches long.
They will not feed for the first week of
life, living off their yolk reserves.
Following their first shed, however,
they begin to actively hunt insects.
They reach maturity in their second year
and will begin breeding soon after.
STATUS IN WILD:
They are common in their range, despite
their widespread popularity in the pet
trade. This is because Leopard Geckos
breed readily in captivity and large
scale breeding programs have been in
progress since the late 1970s and early
1980s. As a result, there has been no
further need to export these lizards
from the wild when captive-bred
specimens are so readily available.