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Gecko Exhibit Opens Door to Visitors' Imaginations


Gecko pictured here from southeast Asia is one of 90 live geckos, representing 18 various species, that is featured at the traveling gecko exhibit from Clyde Peeling's Reptiland in Pennsylvania that is now at the National Geographic Museum in Washington t

Gecko pictured here from southeast Asia is one of 90 live geckos, representing 18 various species, that is featured at the traveling gecko exhibit from Clyde Peeling's Reptiland in Pennsylvania that is now at the National Geographic Museum in Washington t

Geckos are fascinating creatures - masters of camouflage with sticky toes, coats of many colors and really sharp eyes. A traveling gecko exhibit from Clyde Peeling's Reptiland in Pennsylvania is now at the National Geographic Museum in Washington.

Geckos come in many hues, shapes and sizes. "They are very eerie looking. This guy almost looks alien," said Colin Walker, the zoo keeper in charge of the gecko exhibit at the National Geographic Museum in Washington through the first week in January.

Some geckos can even "talk," like this one from Southeast Asia. And they are not always very friendly.

"He really would love to get a hold of my finger right now," said Walker. "The teeth are very small. Still pretty sharp, still very painful and would certainly break the skin. And when they bite, they don't let go."

The show includes 90 live geckos, representing 18 species. "This is the largest gecko in the world. They come from the island of New Caledonia," said Walker.

Geckos have many fascinating features. In some species, the female can reproduce by itself. "In that case the female will create perfect clones of herself," said Walker.

And some Geckos can live several decades. "Some like leopard gecko are known to live for 25 or 40 years," said Walker.

Walker also said, "Some of them are very difficult to find particularly the leaf tail geckos of Madagascar."

Geckos can blend into bamboo and different types of tree bark, making themselves appear almost invisible. They also can look like desert sand. And they stick to walls and ceilings, like a Giant Leaf-tailed gecko, comfortably sleeping while hanging on the wall of his glass cage, like one of the many featured in this exhibit.

Scientists hope to duplicate gecko toes. And gecko eyes can see 300 times better than humans. "Particularly at night, their vision is second to none in the reptile world," said Walker.

Geckos feed on insects and mosquitoes. Pay attention to the fat tail on one this desert gecko featured in the exhibit; that's where he keeps his extra food and water, allowing him to go for weeks without a meal.

The exhibit has several interactive stations for children, one of which offers the different sounds of geckos.

Scientists estimate there are more than 1,250 species of geckos, but with the loss of habitat, many could become extinct before they are identified.

The gecko exhibit will be in Washington through the first week in January 2011.


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