Moorish Gecko Fact File
The Moorish gecko is also known by a number of other names including common gecko, crocodile gecko or Maurita naca gecko. They are found throughout Europe and northern Africa.
Geckoes are able to climb across smooth surfaces such as glass and up trees due to the thousands of tiny micro-hairs which can be found on the pads of their feet.
They feed on small insects and are often seen by people near lights as these will attract food for them.
Moorish geckoes face threats from collection for the pet trade and habitat degradation but it is still thought that their population is increasing as a result of their ability to live alongside humans.
Learn more about these reptiles by reading on below.
These lizards are covered by greyish or brown scales across the body. Their underside is colored white. On the back they have large, wart like scales. The tail is covered by rough scales. The head is flat.
Their coloration will change based on the surface they are on and the available light levels.
Females tend to have more tubercular scales along the body compared to males.
On the pads of the feet of moorish geckoes they have thousands of micro-hairs which create a temporary molecular bond with the surface they are climbing over. This allows them to climb up glass or hang upside down from the roof.
The moorish gecko has a large eye which has a vertical pupil. They lack an eyelid.
Moorish geckoes reach a length up to 15cm (6in) long.
Moorish geckoes are carnivores which primarily feed on insects but some small vertebrates such as frogs may also be consumed.
At night they will congregate near lights which will attract one of their favorite insects to feed on – moths.
Moorish geckoes are found in North Africa and Europe. Here they can be found in the following countries – Algeria; Croatia; Egypt; France; Greece; Italy; Libya; Morocco; Portugal; Slovenia; Spain; Tunisia and Western Sahara.
Their presence in Morocco is currently uncertain.
They have been introduced to Argentina; Portugal; Spain (the Canary Is., Baleares); the United States in California and Florida and Uruguay. It is likely that many of these introduced populations have come from escaped pets.
They make their home in dry and rocky areas and scrub. Most of their range is in coastal areas though in some areas they will live further inland.
These geckoes will often live alongside humans and enter their houses where they will cling to the walls.
Much of their time is spent near a crevice in rock which they can wedge themselves in to, to keep safe from predators.
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Eggs are laid around April and June in their native range.
Females will deposit their eggs in a communal nest which can be deposited in a crevice. Where they live alongside humans they may lay their eggs behind flaking plaster.
Each female may produce two or three clutches each year. These include one or two eggs. These eggs hatch after 4 months.
Maturity is reached by two years old.
Geckoes are the only species of lizards which possess a voice box and this allows them to produce their call such as the namesake "gecko" call and a tutting noise which is used by rival males.
Moorish geckoes are active by night when they will emerge to wait. During winter their is a decrease in their activity levels.
These animals are arboreal and spend much of their time above the ground clinging to a tree or the wall of a house.
Males will work to defend their territory using their squeaking call.
Predators and Threats
When threatened the moorish gecko will detach its tail. A new one will regenerate but this does not grow the tubercles which were present on the previous tail. After this detaches it will continue to wriggle and this may help to distract a predator so they can escape.
These geckoes can adjust their color to match the surface they are on. This can be achieved even when their eyes are covered as the skin contains proteins which can detect light.
In parts of their range they are threatened through collection for the pet trade and habitat degradation.
The populations is currently considered to be stable and may even be expanding due to their ability to live in human inhabited areas.
These animals are also known as the common wall gecko, crocodile gecko, Maurita naca gecko or common gecko.
Moorish geckoes are the most common gecko in Europe.
These animals were first described for science in 1758 by Carl Linnaues.
Their scientific name, Tarentola mauritanica, comes from Taranto (a city in Italy) and the Latin, "Mauritanian" meaning from Mauritania.
Ian Kirk from Broadstone, Dorset, UK, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
John Haslam, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
gailhampshire from Cradley, Malvern, U.K, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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Californiaherps.com. 2021. Moorish Gecko – Tarentola mauritanica. [online] Available at: <http://www.californiaherps.com/lizards/pages/t.mauritanica.html> [Accessed 4 July 2021].
Pbs.org. 2021. The Moorish Gecko "Sees" With Its Skin. [online] Available at: <https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/moorish-lizard-sees-skin/> [Accessed 4 July 2021].
Vogrin, M., Corti, C., Pérez Mellado, V., Baha El Din, S. & Martínez-Solano, I. 2017. Tarentola mauritanica. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T61578A63716927. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-2.RLTS.T61578A63716927.en. Downloaded on 04 July 2021.