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What Is a Leaf-Tailed Gecko?

A leaf-tailed gecko is a master of disguise, with a remarkable ability to blend into its forest surroundings thanks to its leaf-shaped tail and textured skin. These unique reptiles are a marvel of natural selection, offering a glimpse into the wonders of evolution. How do they perfect such camouflage? Uncover the secrets of their survival in the wild.
Drue Tibbits
Drue Tibbits

The leaf-tailed gecko is known for the distinctive shape of its tail. According to the Oakland Zoo, 10 species of this gecko comprise the Uroplatus family. All leaf-tailed geckos have tails that are wider in the middle than at the base. In some species, the tails closely mimic the appearance of a leaf, while others have tails that are more spatulate shaped. Most geckos of this kind are native to Madagascar.

Like all geckos, the leaf-tailed variety can climb vertical surfaces. They are even able to scale slick surfaces such as glass. Geckos can drop their tails when frightened or attacked. The disengaged tail is meant to distract an attacker so that the gecko can run away to safety. The gecko will regenerate a new tail, although the new tail may not be identical in size to the original.

Leaf-tailed geckos in captivity are often fed crickets.
Leaf-tailed geckos in captivity are often fed crickets.

In the wild, leaf-tailed geckos live about three to five years. Under captive conditions, they can survive up to 15 years. They eat a diet of insects such as moths, crickets, and mealworms. A captive leaf-tailed gecko requires the same care as other captive geckos and lizards, with its enclosure duplicating its natural habitat as closely as possible.

Most leaf-tailed geckos are native to Madagascar.
Most leaf-tailed geckos are native to Madagascar.

There are six species of Uroplatus that are commonly kept in captivity. The common leaf-tailed gecko, or Uroplatus fimbriatus, is the largest, growing to about 12 inches (30 cm) long. Its eyes are an amber color, and its body has a vertical stripe pattern. These geckos are also known as giant leaf-tailed-geckos.

The satanic leaf-tailed gecko, or Uroplatus phantasticus, is one of the smallest, growing to 3.5 inches (9 cm) long. Its name comes from the hornlike protrusions on its head and the fact that its eyes are often red. This gecko's tail looks like a dried leaf and is easily camouflaged among leaf debris. Satanic leaf-tailed geckos are found in a wide range of colors, including purple, brown, and orange.

Both Henkle's and lined leaf-tailed geckos grow to about 10 inches (25 cm) long. Henkle's leaf-tailed gecko, or Uroplatus henkeli, can be found in colors from white to orange. These geckos have prehensile tails that they can wrap around tree branches. Lined leaf-tailed geckos, or Uroplatus lineatus, are distinguished by a black mouth lining and will often wave their tails in display. Mossy leaf-tailed geckos, or Uroplatus sikorae, and Eban's leaf-tailed geckos, or Uroplatus ebanaui, are also sometimes kept in captivity.

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    • Leaf-tailed geckos in captivity are often fed crickets.
      By: viter
      Leaf-tailed geckos in captivity are often fed crickets.
    • Most leaf-tailed geckos are native to Madagascar.
      By: Ruslan Olinchuk
      Most leaf-tailed geckos are native to Madagascar.