The Banded Rock Gecko
When I’m out on a walk looking for critters to photograph, I’m always on the lookout for rocks to upturn. Rocks and stones hide all kinds of interesting animals underneath them. Depending on the area you’re searching in, you could find anything from tiny insects to a big snake under one of them!
To increase my chances of success and so as not to waste energy, I only upturn what I think to be the right-sized rocks for the job. Anything smaller than an unhusked coconut is unlikely to harbour anything interesting beneath it. On the other hand massive rocks are too big to be moved and are also best left alone. Some rocks are literally ‘rolling stones gathering no moss’ and are also quite useless.
The best kinds of rocks are the ones that are between 30 to 90 cm. across and sit with a small part of their mass submerged in the ground. Upturn one of these and you might find something very interesting. Like this banded rock gecko that I chanced upon on a nature walk in the Mollem National Park in Goa.
Most animals will quickly dart away when exposed like this but luckily for me this gecko just sat unmoving while I photographed him. Once I was finished taking photographs of the gecko, I put back the roof of his house.
This isn’t as simple as rolling the stone to its original position. This is because in doing so more than likely you will smash the heavy rock onto the little critter. So I first coaxed the 10 cm.-long reptile away. Then I moved the rock back into its original position. With the rock back in place, the lizard needed little convincing to dash back underneath it! So remember, don’t try to do this unless you have an experienced naturalist with you or you could do more harm than good.
Back home I thumbed through my reptile books but found hardly any information on this species of gecko. An Internet search turned out to be a little more productive and revealed some fascinating bits of information about this species in particular and geckos in general.For instance I was surprised to know that the gecko climbs walls with the help of tiny setae (bristles) under its feet. The suction power created by these setae is so strong that a gecko can easily suspend its entire body hanging from a single toe! When lifting its foot to move forward, a gecko bends its toes in the opposite direction from the way we do. In doing so the setae suction forces are drastically reduced allowing the gecko to ‘unstick’ its foot and move forward.
According to the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), there may be more than 80 species of geckos found in various parts of India. Many of these are nocturnal.
A gecko’s tail breaks off easily when grabbed by a predator allowing the little reptile to make a hasty getaway. The gecko will eventually grow a new tail but rarely, if at all, will the new tail resemble the original one in shape and size.
The banded rock gecko can be distinguished from other geckos by its vertical pupil. Like all geckos, it lacks eyelids and instead has a transparent shield. Come to think of it, I’ve never noticed a gecko blink. But I’ve more than once seen geckos lick their own eyes to keep them clean!
Rahul Alvares, 31, is a wildlife consultant and snake rescuer based in Goa. He also edits an online newsletter called The Creepy Times. Be sure to check out his website: www.rahulalvares.com
by Rahul Alvares, First appeared in: Sanctuary Cub, May, 2013.