"Florida's" House Geckos

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JakeScott
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"Florida's" House Geckos

Post by JakeScott » July 26th, 2012, 5:58 pm

Since Florida only has one native gecko, the Reef Gecko (Sphaerodactylus notatus), the House Geckos in this state are a “not from ‘round here”, species.

I commonly see the genus Hemidactylus misidentified with other conspecific species. So, I figured I’d do a post to see if I could succeed in perpetuating the confusion.

Depending on what part of Florida you are in, depends what the most common Hemidactylus is. However, they can all be found the same way; at night, circling the lights in search of invertebrates.
South Florida is the land of the Tropical House Gecko (H. mabouia). This gecko is the largest of this genus in Florida (exceeding seven inches in some examples) and also the most aggressive, thus the most commonly seen gecko from about Central Florida southward.

The main distinguishing characteristic of this species is four or five rear-facing dorsal chevrons. Even at night, when the gecko is overall paler, there is usually still a hint of these markings. While tubercles are present, they are not extremely prominent.

This next picture illustrates a light individual.

Hemidactylus mabouia
Image

And a darker example found during the day under a trashcan:
Image

And intermediate:
Image

The Mediterranean Gecko (H. turcicus) once ruled supreme over most of Florida. Since it’s not likely that house geckos will co-exist (filling the same niche) in the same vicinity, one has got to go. Tropical House Geckos (H. mabouia) ended up outcompeting these geckos in the south and central part of Florida to the point of – almost – extirpation. However, in northern Florida they remain the dominant species and H. mabouia are nonexistent.
I feel these geckos are the most distinguishable from the other four I’m mentioning. They have enlarged tubercles, a heavy body and multiple irregular blotches/spots. They rarely have extreme color shifts from night to day.

Hemidactylus turcicus
Image

Image

Indo-Pacific Geckos (H. garnotii) also seemed to have fallen victim to H. mabouia (likely fell victim to H. turcicus first). They were once fairly common in south and east Florida, but now only remain in small, scattered pockets.
A gas station in Bradford County has had these geckos present for at least 15 years (likely longer). I have been watching them for over five years and they remain extant. However, five years ago they were the only Hemidactylus on the walls of this building. The last few trips to this locale, I have been noticing H. turcicus. I have a feeling I am witnessing the final days of H. garnotii at this location.

They are a generally a smaller gecko – in length and build. Their dorsal color is usually uniformly tan/brown with a few white flecks, and a smooth surface. On the darker side, they can have a marbled look with a lot of dark specks. They are the only Hemidactylus to have a yellow belly, which gains in intensity as they age, and red tail, that fades as they age. Adults will obtain two yellow calcium pouches on both sides of the neck.

Since these geckos reproduce with parthenogenesis, one individual can start a population. If not for larger geckos, these geckos could easily spread far and wide in Florida, and elsewhere.

Hemidactylus garnotii
Image

Image

These next two species seem to have a scattered distribution.

The Common House Gecko (H. frenatus) now only seems to be present in a few locations in extreme south Florida.

Like H. garnotii, this gecko has a smooth dorsum and white flecks, but differ in that they are a heavier animal, have a broader head and have dark stripes that run the length of the body.

Hemidactylus frenatus
Image

Image

Asian Flat-tailed Geckos (H. platyurus) are common as a feeder gecko (food for other animals) so they are mainly found around pet dealerships or pet stores. A location in NE Gainesville, Florida is just such a place. A pet store that has been closed for over 10 years has these geckos (as well as Tokay Geckos) still present and breeding. In recent years, like with H. garnotii, I have seen more and more H. turcicus at this location.

They are distinguishable from the other geckos by a flat tail with enlarged, keeled scales at the edges. They also have a dark stripe that runs from the eye, down the length of the body, on each side and dorsal saddles. There is also webbing between each toe.

Hemidactylus platyurus
Image

Image

I hope you are thoroughly confused now.

-Jake Scott

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by chris_mcmartin » July 26th, 2012, 6:40 pm

I thought flat-tails were Cosymbotus (sp)? Did they get subsumed into Hemidactylus or am I thinking of an altogether different animal?

I've never been good at distinguishing frenatus, garnoti, mabouia, etc. Thanks for the photo-survey.

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by gbin » July 26th, 2012, 6:45 pm

When my wife and I lived in FL, for a while we rented a house about 30 minutes east of Gainesville in rural Putnam County where a thriving colony of tokay geckos existed. That surprised me - even startled me, the first night after we moved there that they called (loudly!) from the exterior of our house - especially being out in the middle of nowhere like that.

Gerry

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by JakeScott » July 26th, 2012, 6:50 pm

Indeed they were and indeed they did. Of course this could all change at any moment.

-Jake

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by JakeScott » July 26th, 2012, 6:53 pm

Gerry, I had no idea of this population. They are quite startling because of how loud they can be. They enjoy a good Hemidactylus meal.

-Jake

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by DracoRJC » July 26th, 2012, 7:02 pm

Interesting post - I have personally seen the Indo-Pacific species in south FL, and was surprised to not see a single Mediterranean, as my home in Houston was crawling with them. Would you consider adding to this post with some pics/info about tokays and what ever other exotic geckos there are? I have heard day geckos mentioned before but never seen a pic.

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by gbin » July 26th, 2012, 7:10 pm

Yeah, I was working on the computer late one night when the first tokay called from just on the other side of the wall my desk was facing; it made me jump right out of my chair! :lol:

If you're interested, Jake, I can dig up the address where we lived and PM it to you so you can see how they're faring there. (I'm afraid by this point we've lived in too many places for me to call it up from memory. :? ) It was a nice spot overall, with lots of native species around. Right in our own yard or just down our dirt road we regularly encountered coral snakes (we used to keep a rug jammed up against the gap under our front door to prevent one from coming inside as it seemed to very much want to do), gopher tortoises, even eastern diamondbacks... Scarcely any Hemidactylus, though, likely for the reason you mentioned. ;)

Gerry

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by Mike VanValen » July 26th, 2012, 7:53 pm

I've been meaning to ask someone to make this post. Thanks. I'm pretty confident now that the pale Hemis hanging out at Flamingo Marina are mabouia.

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by Coluber Constrictor » July 26th, 2012, 10:14 pm

As far as I could tell, all the geckos I saw in Naples were H. mabouia, but I did see H. garnotii in the Corkscrew Swamp (hanging out in broad daylight, oddly enough), and on Sanibel Island. I've only seen H. turcicus on the northern Gulf Coast (LA/MS/AL and the FL panhandle). If I remember correctly the ones in Mobile are of Italian origin and came to the port city in a shipment of stones which were used to build an Episcopal Church in midtown. Not sure how long they've been here but they're definitely more common than they were when I was a kid in the early 90's.

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by chrish » July 27th, 2012, 2:16 am

Thanks for an interesting and informative post. Commensal Geckos are maddening, particularly as you travel outside of the US. I have dozens of photos of "house geckos" that I need to straighten out.

Now Florida just needs to add a couple of species of Gehyra to the mix to help obfuscate things even further. Seems like a question of when, not if.

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by Tamara D. McConnell » July 27th, 2012, 4:47 am

Jake,
Thanks for the info. I've spent hours scratching my head over field guides, trying to sort out the Florida hemis. Your post is helpful.

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by JakeScott » July 27th, 2012, 12:24 pm

Gerry: Very interesting to hear about this new area. Yeah, if you can find the area for me, I'd go look for you. It's not too far from me.

Mike: Yep, the ones around the marina and fish houses down there are mabouia. They used to be garnotii.

Chris: Some of those Gehyra are really cool looking. If they could stay put and not spread, I wouldn't mind finding some around a few buildings...the problem is, they'd likely take over the state.

Draco: I'll throw some more pics in here of the other exotic geckos I've seen. Day geckos are indeed established.

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by dickbartlett » July 27th, 2012, 2:34 pm

Gehyra mutilata is here Chris, in the St. Pete region.

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by JakeScott » July 27th, 2012, 4:07 pm

The Florida Native:
Male Reef Gecko Sphaerodactylus notatus
Image

Female Reef Gecko Sphaerodactylus notatus
Image

Adult Ashy Gecko Sphaerodactylus elegans
Image

Juvenile Ashy Gecko Sphaerodactylusel egans
Image

Numerous trips have resulted in zero of these:
Ocellated Gecko Sphaerodactylus argus
Image

As well as the possible extirpation of these:
Male Yellow-headed Gecko Gonatodes albogularis fuscus
Image

Female Yellow-headed Gecko Gonatodes albogularis fuscus
Image

Giant Day Gecko Phelsuma grandis
Image
Image

Tokay Gecko Gekko gecko
Image
Image

Marbled Gecko Gekko grossmanni
Image

-Jake Scott

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by Mike Rochford » July 27th, 2012, 4:29 pm

Nice post, as usual, Jake. Are there still Skunk Geckos and Golden Geckos turning up in Hollywood? Tarentola mauritanicus and T. annularis belong in this thread!!!

Mike

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by gbin » July 27th, 2012, 4:41 pm

JakeScott wrote:Gerry: Very interesting to hear about this new area. Yeah, if you can find the area for me, I'd go look for you. It's not too far from me.
PM sent.

Gerry

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by JakeScott » July 27th, 2012, 4:57 pm

Thanks Gerry, I'll give it a look!

Mike, appreciate it, hope you're well. I actually have photos of Tarentola mauritanica but not T. annularis; BUT the photos I do have are worse than horrible. Both I'll need better photos of. As for the others, skunks and goldens, I haven't heard anything about them lately. I'd be willing to bet they are running around still but don't know. I haven't been over that way in a long while.

-Jake

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by BillMcGighan » July 28th, 2012, 6:27 am

Thanks for this one, Jake.
Helps much since field marks are sometimes subtle.

In early '70s I knew of two Tokay populations in Marion Co. When I checked several times in the late '80s, they were no where to be found.
One of the changes to one of the sights was heavy insecticide use.


(Sphaerodactylus notatus
define native!) :lol: :lol:

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by JakeScott » July 28th, 2012, 6:43 am

Sphaerodactylus notatus notatus ;)

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by kyle loucks » July 28th, 2012, 5:01 pm

Thanks for the post Jake...


Bad photo, but I called this mabouia
Image

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by Mike Pingleton » July 28th, 2012, 5:57 pm

Jake, thanks for taking us to school on these!

-Mike

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by JakeScott » July 28th, 2012, 7:09 pm

Thanks Mike. It's merely homeschoolin', but I tried.

Kyle: Yep, mabouia. And a nice looking one to boot.

-Jake

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by Carl D. May » July 29th, 2012, 3:46 am

Great post Jake with good information. I've watched the transition of gecko species here in Palm Beach County since the late 70's and now it seems that every house has at least a few mabouia hanging around its front door lights. We had both garnoti and turcicus on our home in Lake Park in the early 80's but the garnoti were on their way out even then. Nowadays I never see turcicus anywhere in South Florida and I only find the mabouia now.
As a negative side note, the estate in Palm Beach that I have been the gardener on for the past 22 years used to have a thriving native population of reef geckos, S. notatus. But as the mabouia have invaded the island the reef geckos are now rarely seen. The mabouia are everywhere too. We find them on every tree, in every pot, in leaf litter, all over the exterior walls at night and just about anywhere you can imgine. They even manage to get inside outdoor light fixtures. It's no wonder the little reef geckos are almost gone.

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by Crimson King » July 29th, 2012, 9:05 am

Nice Jake. We appreciate your efforts!
Back in the 60's-70's a friend told me where to find Turkish (Mediterranean) geckos so I could collect them for him.. They were associated with a few buildings that were used as storage for shipments of canned goods, etc. with a direct link to shipping overseas...Anyway, any w/broken tails were kept by me and a friend and we planted them at our houses. They soon were all over our neighborhood and we kinda thought it was cool...
Over the years as you say, they've been all but replaced by the others here in Tampa..I still like the Turkish best:)
Also in my neighborhood, we have a few Tokays and a BIG male resides in my snake shed...Startles me EVERY time he "warms up" with his call! (which can be heard a block away) AND he eats a few of my mice when he can steal them.....

:Mark

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by Chris Smith » July 29th, 2012, 5:37 pm

I appreciate this post! Unfortunately these little beasts are here to stay, so we would all be wise to study up on our Hemidactylus ID skills!

Thanks,
-Chris

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by Cole Grover » July 30th, 2012, 8:20 am

Awesome post. Someone's needed to do this for a long time! Thanks!

-Cole

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by FloridaSerpent » November 8th, 2014, 11:20 am

This post was so helpful, cleared up a lot of confusion. Thanks

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by umop apisdn » November 9th, 2014, 2:06 pm

I thought I had heard of records in the past few years of S. argus turning up in certain places in the Keys (though, on our last trip we failed to find any), and I thought there were also supposed to still be places to go for G. albogularis. I guess I'm behind the times?

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by PrimitiveTim » November 9th, 2014, 9:45 pm

I see only H. mabouia and garnotti here in north brevard At my house it's all garnotti and at my grandmother's it's all mabouia. I live in a really rural area and I know there have been geckos here for a long time. I never knew what the mabouia were so thanks for clearing that up for me. I always thought they were turcicus but they always seemed too small and skinny. I'd be interested in seeing a range map showing all the populations of the various invasive geckos in FL.

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by Noah M » November 11th, 2014, 1:07 pm

I see only H. mabouia and garnotti here in north brevard
I've never seen garnotti. I have both turcicus and mabouia on the property (Alachua Co), but so far no garnotti.

I think building a good range map would be hard. By the time you're done collecting data, everything would have changed again!

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Re: "Florida's" House Geckos

Post by JakeScott » November 12th, 2014, 2:29 pm

umop apisdn wrote:I thought I had heard of records in the past few years of S. argus turning up in certain places in the Keys (though, on our last trip we failed to find any), and I thought there were also supposed to still be places to go for G. albogularis. I guess I'm behind the times?
While I still haven't been able to locate Gonatodes, I've searched the known areas for them and have had reliable observations in the recent past.

I've since [finally] found S. argus in the lower keys. A location in which they are still thriving quite well.

ImageSphaerodactylus argus by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr

ImageSphaerodactylus argus by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr

-Jake

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