6 Facts about the eye-licking gecko that looks like a decaying leaf

Few creatures are as strange as the leaf-tailed gecko, but with clever camouflage and light reflecting modifications, it may as well be wearing a cloak of invisibility

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1. They are masters of camouflage

Despite what the name ‘leaf-tailed gecko’ implies, it isn’t just their tails that mimic leaves. Their bodies even have parts missing and rough edges to look like decaying leaves and to help them disappear into their surroundings. Leaf-like veins run down the tail and cover their leaf-coloured body.

2. They don’t just look like a leaf, they act like one too

Not quite content with looking exactly like the surrounding foliage, they spend most the their day motionless. Hiding away amongst a mass of dead leaves, they twist their tail around their bodies and flatten themselves completely against tree trunks. Looking like a leaf is extremely useful when your main predators rely on eyesight for hunting.

3. They have no eyelids

Eyelids serve to protect the eyes and keep them moist but, like many other geckos, the leaf-tailed gecko doesn’t have any. Instead, they use their tongue to lick the surface of their eyes to remove any dust or debris that may be there.

4. They have sticky fingers

A life in the trees is very dangerous for an animal as small as a gecko and any fall could be fatal. To ensure they don’t accidentally slip, their feet have countless tiny hair-like structures seemingly providing the superpower to stick to almost any surface with ease.

5. Their Latin name means imaginary

Naturalist George Albert Boulenger first discovered these mysterious Malagasy geckos in 1888. He thought these creatures were incredibly intriguing. He described the reptiles as ‘mythical’ and subsequently gave them the Latin name phantasticus’ which is Latin for imaginary.

6. They aren’t really satanic

Where the name ‘satanic’ came from, we’re not really sure. When the gecko feels threatened, it opens its jaws as wide as it can to show off its frightening bright red mouth. This along with bright red eyes can make it look a bit scary and probably doesn’t help.

 

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Image from www.flickr.com/photos/stuutje