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Phelsuma madagascariensisgrandis, the Giant Madagascar Day Gecko

Name: Day Gecko


Range: Located in Madagascar and the groups of islands to the north and south - which include the Comoros, Andamans, Amirantes, and Seychelles.

Habitat: They live in temperate habitats where they climb in bushes and trees. Geckos are typically found in a milder climate with an average temperature of 65 degrees F, and with a 50 - 85% humidity level.

Status: The majority of the day geckos are not threatened, however, there are a few species that are threatened, and there is one species that is endangered.

Diet in the wild: Day geckos feed mostly on insects, other invertebrates, sweet plant foods such as bananas and other fruits, the nectar of flowers, and occasionally small vertebrates.

Diet in the zoo: Mostly crickets, wax moths, houseflies, papaya, honey, and baby-food fruits.

Location in the  zoo: Herpetarium

Giant Madagascar Day GeckoPhysical description: They usually grow to be between 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 in.) long. Roughly half of their length is tail. They have a flattened body with a relatively large head. Most have a "glowing" green color (ranging from olive green to turquoise). Most day geckos have patterns of red spots on their backs. Phelsuma can change its basic color to blend in with background color. They have large, vividly colored eyes, but they don't have eyelids. Instead, thay have a clear, fixed, transparent plate protecting their eyes. All have flattened toe pads that consist of rows of flap-like plates (lamellae) covered with thousands of microscopic hooklike projections (villosities) that can catch onto any surface. Each foot has five digits, the first one being a short thumb with no toe pad, and the fourth one being much longer than the others.

General information: Phelsuma geckos are diurnal (active during the day), while most other members of the family Gekkonidae are nocturnal. They are very colorful and use various postures and gestures to "broadcast" their moods. Young geckos grow rapidly and apparently almost all species breed before they are fully one year old. Geckos are the only lizards that can produce more than a hiss or other simple sound. Their vocalizations range from squeaks and clicks to barks and croaks (sort of like those from a tormented frog). The female gecko usually lays two eggs.

Special anatomical, physiological or behavioral adaptations: The green color of the geckos is associated with the animals tendency to stay in foliage of trees, where they find abundant hiding places. Since the geckos have setae on the bottom of their toe pads, they are capable of climbing glass walls and walking upside down on a ceiling. Geckos wiggle back and forth when they walk because of the fact that in order to lift their foot from the wall surface, it must curl each toe upward from the front to "unhook" its villosities. Since reptiles cannot run very quickly, thay have a tail that can break off easily when captured by a predator. Also, when a day gecko feels threatened while up in a tree, it can let itself instantly fall down into the leaves surrounding it to hide, and they always land on their feet. One species, the P. abotti, is often found sitting on the carapace of the giant tortoise. Here it feeds on the insects attracted by the tortoise's excrement. Also, the marginal plates of the shell give the gecko protection during the nights and daytime rest periods they spend beneath the tortoise's plates.

Giant Madagascar Day GeckoComments about the day geckos of the Fort Worth Zoo: I asked one of the zoo keepers at Fort Worth Zoo if they knew of anything that was unique about Phelsuma day geckos. She told me that if you touch them with your bare hands, their skin will fall off wherever you touched. I found this to be quite odd. This is because they have very tiny scales that tear very easily. She also told me that Phelsuma geckos are different than most other geckos in that they are highly territorial. They had two different species of day geckos. The most noticable was the Phelsumamadagascariensis grandis (a.k.a. Giant Madagascar Day Gecko) with its large body and colorful spots. It had two iridescent spots near the base of its legs. They are one of the largest and most striking of the day geckos. There was only one of this species in the herpitorium. The other species of day geckos at the Fort Worth Zoo was Phelsuma standingi (a.k.a. Standings Giant Day Gecko). This species was unique because it's found in dry places, and it also lacks the bright coloration of other day geckos. Another zookeeper told me that there was one male and one female that were not related, and were capable of breeding. Another thing that I learned from the keeper was that these day geckos were also different in that they have rounded pupils instead of vertical slotted pupils like the other geckos from the family Gekkonidae. I learned that this is because day geckos are active during the day, and the other geckos are nocturnal which only need small pupil openings to see since it is dark when they are active.

Personal Observations: I enjoyed watching the day geckos climb up the glass the most. I noticed that neither of the geckos were crawling next to eachother. They moved fairly quickly with rapid leg movements. When the geckos where crawling up and down across the glass, while I could see their underside, I could see how their little flattened toes would stick to the glass, and they had to pull their whole leg up in order to get their toe unstuck. The Giant Madagascar day gecko had part of his tail broken off. The new section that was growing back was black instead of the usual bright green.

Related Links:

Page author: Christie Kelton; you may e-mail me any questions you have about my animal at

Source list:

Corborn, John. Lizards: Keeping and Breeding them in Captivity. New Jersey: T.F.H. Publications, Inc., 1997.

Grzimek, Bernhard. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. New York: Van Nostrand Reingold Company, 1975. Vol. 6 of Reptiles. 12 vols. pp. 165-166, 496.

Honders, John. The World of Reptiles and Amphibians. London: Peebles Press, 1975.

Information placards at the Fort Worth Zoo.

University of Michigan Animal Diversity page on Geckos:

Radtkey, Ray R. "Adaptive Radiation of Day Geckos (Phelsuma) in the Seychelles Archipelago: A Phylogenetic Analysis." Evolution. 1996. Vol. 50(2) pp. 604-623.

Stanek, V.J. The Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom. New York: Crown Publishers, 1962.

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