ABOUT CRESTED GECKOS
The Crested Gecko (Correlophus ciliatus) is a species of gecko native to southern New Caledonia. It was thought to be extinct up until 1994 when it was rediscovered. Since then, it is being considered for protected status by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna along side several other Rhacodactylus species. Crested Geckos have also become very popular in the pet trade for their ease of handling and docile temperament.
The French zoologist Alphone Guichenot first named the Crested Gecko in 1866 Correlophus ciliatus in an article entitled "Notice sur un nouveau genre de sauriens de la famille des geckotiens du Muséum de Paris” ("Notes on a new species of lizard in the gecko family") in the Mémoires de la Société Scientifique Naturelle de Chérbourg. It was later renamed Rhacodactylus ciliatus until recently when it was moved back under the genus Correlophus. The specific name, ciliatus, is Latin: cilia means "fringe" or "eyelash" and refers to the crest of skin over the animal's eyes that resembles an eyelash.
The Crested gecko is endemic to South Provence, New Caledonia. Three disjunct populations can be found there, one on Isle of Pines and the surrounding islets and two on the main island of Grande Terre. One is near the protected provincial park near the Blue river and the other is further north, just south of Mount Dzumac.
The Crested Gecko has eyelash-like projections found above the eyes. The head is wedge-shaped with crests running from the eyes all the way to the base of the tail. Small "hairs" called setae cover the toes and tip of the semi-prehensile tail. Each setae is divided into hundreds of smaller hairs called spatulae. These structures are believed to exploit the weak van der Waals force to help the gecko climb on moist solid surfaces. The toes have small claws to aid in climbing surfaces which the setae cannot adhere to.
The Crested Gecko has eyelash-like projections found above the eyes.
The Crested Gecko has many natural occurring color groups which include: various shades of brown, red, orange, white, grey and yellow. They also have variable markings: stripes, spots, tiger-like stripes and splotches. These markings and colors are not geographic indicators. It is common for offspring of the same clutch to display quite a difference in these traits. At night, the colors of the Crested Gecko brighten up and become more prominent, this is known as "fired up". This gecko has distinct structural morphs in crest abundance and head size. Crested Geckos with a head length less than 1.3 times its head width are considered “crowned”, which does not include the crest size or their length. Sometimes the head can be so wide it starts to droop off the sides of their head.
Ecology and behavior
Instead of eyelids, the Crested Gecko has a transparent scale over its eyes (also known as a spectacle). It uses its tongue to keep its eyes moist and clear of debris. Like all Rhacodactylus geckos, it has webbing on its legs and digits. They are mostly an arboreal species and can jump considerably well. They prefer to inhabit the canopy of the New Caledonian rainforests. Nocturnal in nature, the Crested Gecko will spend daylight hours sleeping in a secure spot in the trees.
Unlike the closely related Gargoyle Gecko (Rhacodactylus auriculatus), the Crested Gecko will not regrow its tail once lost. It has cells around the base of the tail that are brittle, allowing the tail to break away when. It does this when threatened or caught by a predator. When it drops its tail, little to no blood is lost since the capillaries leading to the tail have the ability to close almost instantly. Once the tail is dropped, it will move independently of the body for a few minutes. The loss of their tail does not seem to be a problem as most adults in the wild do not have a tail. As with other species of gecko from New Caledonia, the Crested Gecko is an omnivore/frugivorous meaning, it feeds on a variety of insects and fruits.
Not much is known about the reproductive behavior of Crested Geckos in their natural habitat. However, in captivity they are known to be prolific breeders. Female Crested Geckos only have to mate with a male once in order to lay eggs for upwards of 8-10 months. This is because they are able to retain sperm throughout a breeding cycle. A female will lay a clutch of two eggs every 30 to 45 days which will hatch in 60-150 days. Once a hatchling is fully developed, it will make a slit in the pliable eggshell and come out. It can take up to 24 hours for a hatchling to emerge out of its egg once this happens, as some tend to sit tucked in the egg to soak up the remainder of their yolk sac. Once out, newly hatched Crested Geckos will generally not eat until after shedding their skin for the first time. In the wild, after the 8-10 breeding months, females will go through a “cooling cycle”. This is prompted by slight temperature changes in the winter which helps them regain lost nutrients from egg-laying. This cooling cycle must be controlled in captivity or females will lay eggs continuously, even to death.
Status in the wild
Long believed extinct, the species was rediscovered in 1994 after a tropical storm. It is currently being assessed for CITES protection and endangered status. The biggest single threat to the wild population appears to be the introduction of the little fire ant (Wassmania auropunctata) to New Caledonia. The ants prey on the geckos, stinging and attacking in great numbers and also compete with the geckos for food by preying on arthropods.