Also called a common gecko, a Moorish gecko is a type of lizard often seen in the pet trade. Spending much of their time climbing, geckos are most distinctive because of their toes, which bend the opposite direction from human toes and have adhesive pads. The scientific name for the Moorish gecko is Tarentola mauritanica.
Moorish geckos are about 6 inches (15 cm) long including their nearly 3 inch (8 cm) tails. They have thick bodies and large, bulging eyes that sport vertical pupils. Generally gray-bodied and scaled, males also have brown patterns and white marks on their shoulders. The bellies of these geckos are usually smooth and white. Sometimes Moorish geckos are called crocodile geckos because of their superficial resemblance to tiny crocodiles.
Native to coastal Mediterranean regions, as well as parts of Africa and Europe, the Moorish gecko has been successfully introduced to southern California and Florida. Usually they are found in low elevations, below 1,312 feet (400 m) but may be found as high as 4,593 feet (1,400 m). They most often inhabit boulders or walls in dry, warm, areas. Generally nocturnal, the Moorish gecko may be seen basking in daylight during cooler months.
Breeding in April and June, Moorish geckos have two or three clutches of eggs each year. Clutches are small, only one or two eggs. Incubation periods depend on the outside temperature and may last for months. After the eggs hatch, the young lizards are completely on their own.
Hardy lizards, geckos make popular pets for potential reptile owners. Moorish geckos, however, should be kept by owners with some reptile — preferably gecko — experience, because they are shy and nervous when handled. Generally, it is best to handle these geckos as little as possible.
Moorish geckos eat mainly insects and other invertebrates. They have been known, however, to eat small mammals as well. In captivity, they can occasionally be fed pinkie mice for variety, but are mostly fed insects. Adults can be fed every other day, but a young Moorish gecko should be fed daily.
Pet enclosures should have plenty of vertical space for climbing. The floor may be lined with sand. Moorish geckos also need a basking area available in their enclosures. The basking area should be kept between 80 and 85°F (26.5–29°C). The enclosure also needs to be moist in order to prevent the gecko excessively shedding. An ultraviolet light is not necessary for these lizards.