Saturday, 25 April 2015

Lizards 9: Yellow Headed Day Gecko

The second species of day gecko kept at Bristol is the much smaller Yellow Headed or Neon Day Gecko, Phelsuma klemmeri. Growing to a maximum length of around 10cm, this species is one of the species more widely kept and bred by hobbyists. In the wild it is only known from a total area of under 1000 km2 on the Ampasindava peninsula in north west Madagascar. As a result of its limited range, where it is only known from two regions, it is currently classed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

In its native habitat it seems to be almost entirely confined to stands of bamboo, where it is found on medium sized or older, dead bamboo, near the coast. As bamboos stands are rather patchy in primary forest, but regenerate quickly after clearance, this species may actually benefit from human activities, unlike practically every other living thing on the island.

The diet is similar to other day geckos, feeding on small invertebrates for the most part, supplemented with nectar and sweet fruits when available. They hide in crevices in the bamboo canes, using holes where insect damage has opened the spaces between the internodes of the stems, and these conveniently sized spaces are also used for laying their eggs, which are about the size of a garden pea. The young hatch after 40-50 days, and around 25mm when born. As with most geckos, females lay clutches of 2 eggs at a time, and the developing eggs are readily seen through her abdomen when she is gravid.

Yellow Headed Day Geckos share their habitat with two other species, the 14cm Seipp’s Day Gecko P.seippi and the 30cm Giant Day Gecko P.madagascariensis. Both of these prefer forest rather than bamboo, and would certainly prey on small P.klemmeri, which probably explains why it is hardly ever found away from bamboo and has such a patchy distribution. Other predators would be other lizards such as chameleons, birds such as small raptors or cuckoo shrikes, and even large spiders and other invertebrates. How many eggs they produce each season in the wild is unrecorded, but in captivity they seem reasonably prolific and can live to 10 years, although females at least decline in fertility after they reach 2 or 3 years of age.

In captivity Yellow Headed Day Geckos make good display animals as a result of their diurnal behaviour and constant activity, especially in pairs or groups. They need more space than might be thought from their size, and planted vivaria, especially with plentiful bamboo or branch cage furniture, show them off to best advantage.

(images are mine)

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