Villa Quetzal

Villa Quetzal

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Geckos," when you get to know them, "you love them"

The very first time I saw a gecko was in the shower of one of my friend’s beach house. I got out of there as fast as I could; since I had no idea what kind reptile could look like a mini-dinosaur,  my mind started wondering if it could be dangerous.  Looking back, I believe I experienced fear based on lack or knowledge.

Now that I live in Costa Rica, in a tropical environment I have learned to live with them, yes, we share the same house and facilities.  Unbelievably, we live in total harmony with them, some sort of unity in diversity.

Some people say that having geckos in your house is a good omen; whether that is true or not, I believe they are great roommates, simply because they control the insect population in your home.  Of course, this comment is somehow difficult to understand until you see this picture…

You might not like lizards, but you have to admit that some of them are cool, and geckos belong to the lizard family.  These gecko guys have an astonishing ability to climb, so amazing that they can cross a glass window, scurry up a wall, and even walk along the ceiling.  Can you think of another creature able to do that?  I can't; that is why I like them so much.    

Geckos are equipped with “tools” that only geckos possess!
When we think about geckos climbing a well-polished glass window, we have to discard the possibility that the glass has crevices for them to climb.  The suction theory is not possible either because the gecko’s feet do not have a cup shape to push out air; friction might work for the wall, but not on the ceiling; sticky feet could  work, but the feet do not have any glands to produce a glue-like substance.

How can they do it?  Well, some scientists have analyzed closely and thoroughly the gecko feet, in order to find a good explanation for this amazing ability, and they have come up with the theory that the magic lies in the interaction between the molecules.  This is what scientists call van der Waals force.  For geckos, being able to stick to the wall, or walk across the ceiling does not necessarily depend on, what the gecko toes are made of, but the shape.  Each toe has a network of millions of tiny hairs; at the end of each hair, there are thousands of tiny pads.  There is a very amazing, and very small attraction between each tiny pad and the molecules on the surface beneath or above the foot; however, the force is multiplied by having millions of tiny molecular attractions.  I could actually say that those tiny pads acted like hooks.  A gecko can even hang by a single toe, and some researchers, say that if all the pads of a gecko were touching the surface at the same time, the gecko could hold almost 300 pounds.  That is what I call GECKO POWER!

Geckos can be found on almost every continent except in Antarctica; they do a lot of good; they play a major role making our lives and environment more comfortable, as they include in their diet cockroaches, mosquitoes, termites, and a wide array of insects.  Geckos have three very distinctive characteristics; one is the ability to camouflage by changing their color that helps them to blend with the environment while looking for food; they also change colors to reflect emotions such as fear, excitement, or anger.  The second impressive characteristic is their detachable tail; when they are touched or bitten by one of their predators, they just drop the tail and escape; subsequently, they grow a new tail.  The third amazing characteristic they have is the ability to change the aperture of the pupil to a single vertical row of pinhole openings in bright sunlight, making the iris resembling the color of their skin in order to increase their camouflage.  Talk about being fitted to survive!
Have you heard the “chuck, Chuck” sound that seems to be unique to geckos?  The first time I heard it, I thought it was coming from a larger animal, but to my surprise, it was coming from a tiny gecko.  They make this noise when they are defending a good feeding territory, or when they are calling their mates.  The female geckos normally lay eggs two at a time; however, females lay their eggs somewhat collectively in secure places; I imagine they feel more sheltered in community.  The incubation usually takes 5-8 weeks, and their lives span may be 7-9 years.    

We enjoy our geckos, their swift movement on the wall, the bird-like sound; their chuck, chuck call, and the amount of mosquitoes and cockroaches they devour make them our favorite house lizard.  
Costa Rica harbors nine species of geckos out of the 750 species worldwide.  On your next vacation to this tropical paradise, make sure you get to enjoy them and take some pictures home.

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