Malaysian House Gecko
Hemidactylus frenatus (Schlegel, 1836)

Family: Gekkonidae

Order: Squamata (Sauria) - Lizards

Class: Reptilia

Phylum: Chordata - Vertebrates

Kingdom: Animalia

Red List status: Not listed

Snout-vent length: 6 cm

Total length: 13 mm

Malaysian house gecko. Townsville, Queensland, Australia.
RANGE

The world's most widely-distributed lizard. Its natural range extends throughout much of tropical Asia, including the entire Malay Peninsula, Indo-China and parts of Indonesia. It has been introduced to much of the tropical world, as well as to the United States and Japan. In Australia it occurs in the Northern Territory, and in Queensland to the border with New South Wales.

            Range            Description            Habitat            Behaviour            Biology            References

Other common names: Chit-chat, common house gecko, Asian house gecko, spiny-tailed house gecko

DESCRIPTION

Body colouration is most commonly pink to tan without patterning at night in buildings, although a light-edged brown streak may be present along the side of the head behind the eye. During the day, or when among trees at night-time, the animal becomes grey-brown, often with dark patterning in the forms of lines or spots. The venter is pale. Characteristic features include smooth, finely-grained skin interspersed with coarser tubercles, and an innermost toe half the length of the second which is tipped with a claw and expanded toe pads. The genus name derives from the fact that the lamellae are divided by a deep cleft, resulting in paired lamellae on the underside of each toe.

Profile view of Hemidactylus frenatus

 

Chit-chat at night. Note the pale colouration and the short inner toes.

Similar species: Numerous species of house gecko, typically with similar colouration, occur alongside H. frenatus throughout its range. This species is most readily distinguished from other small geckos by the whorls of prominent spines (actually enlarged tubercles) around the cylindrical tail. However, these are absent from regenerated portions of the tail. The flat-tailed gecko (Cosynbotus platyurus), a common species in much of Southeast Asia, has a flattened rather than cylindrical tail and flaps of skin along the sides of the body and tail. Many superficially similar house geckos, such as those in the genus Gehyra), possess only a single row of lamellae on the underside of each foot.

Call: Very familiar to anyone who has spent time where these lizards occur, characterised as "chuck...chuck...chuck" (Wilson, 2005) and sometimes as "chit...chat", accounting for one of the species' common names. Persistent and often repeated, the call may be heard at any time of day but is most common at night and in the evening.

 

HABITAT

Often the most abundant gecko of disturbed habitats. Most commonly encountered in urban settings, where the species is very common on walls and ceilings, and occasionally on garden vegetation. Rarely encountered far from human habitation, even in its native range, although in some areas it may occur in forested habitat.

Elevation: 0-1,600 m

Chit-chat among vegetation.

 

BEHAVIOUR

The chit-chat is principally crepuscular and nocturnal, though may be active at other times of day in buildings. Animals can often be observed pursuing one another across walls, ceilings or floors, where density can be quite high. The species is insectivorous and individuals will often station themselves near electric lights to feed on moths and other insects.

 

BIOLOGY

Breeding biology: All geckos lay clutches of exactly two eggs. In the case of Hemidactylus frenatus, these are typically wedged into crevices. Some populations of this gecko may be parthenogenic.

 

REFERENCES

Cox, M. J., van Djik, P. P., Nabhitabhata, J. and Thirakhupt, K. (1998) A Photographic Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of Thailand and South-east Asia New Holland

Das, I. (2006)  A Photographic Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of Borneo New Holland
Wilson, S. and Swan, G. (2003) A Complete Guide to Reptiles of Australia New Holland
Wilson, S. (2005) A Field Guide to Reptiles of Queensland New Holland

Hemidactylus frenatus. Townsville, Queensland, Australia.