Both for current Leopard Gecko owners and those who think about getting their first gecko, these 14 facts are not only fascinating, but many are important to know! Some may answer questions you’ve long had, others may put new questions in your head instead…
1. Leopard Geckos have around 100 tiny teeth
As insectivore predators, Leopard Geckos have a row of tiny, pointy teeth on the upper and lower jaw – around 100 teeth in total made mainly for gripping their prey. These geckos are also polyphyodonts, meaning their teeth are replaced continuously all their lives – around every 3 to 4 months, they have a completely new set of teeth. However, they are slowly replaced one-by-one, not all at once.
A Leopard Gecko’s teeth are also not very sharp – they are rarely able to pierce human skin. They also rarely bite their owners, but it may come to that if they feel threatened. This happens mainly if they are handled by someone, they have no bond with (yet), or if they feel stressed out. If your gecko bites you, it’s best to put them back in their habitat and leave them be for a while.
The Leopard Gecko’s teeth do not need to be cleaned or cared for. The gecko’s teeth are replaced continuously to make sure they always have fresh and healthy teeth – something we human can envy them for.
The only possible problem is mouth rot, which is usually caused by stress and/or poor diet.
2. Leopard Geckos “talk” – with Chirps, Barks, and Screams
Like many pets, Leopard Geckos make a variety of sounds to express how they are feeling. Your gecko actually has quite a range of sounds it can make! Some common examples include chirping and squeaking, clicking, barking, or even screaming.
Chirping and squeaking: These sounds are usually happy sounds. Leopard Geckos often chirp or squeak when exploring their enclosure, when eating, or when being handled. In general, if they are chirping, they feel safe and at ease, happy.
Clicking: Clicking is a Leopard Gecko’s way of showing discomfort or stress. If you are handling them and hear them clicking, let them back in their tank and give them some alone time. Younger geckos will often click more since they are not as accustomed to their new environment and their owners yet.
Barking: A Leopard Gecko’s bark is a bit like a rougher clicking, both in sound and meaning. Your gecko may bark when it feels threatened or unsafe, similar to a dog’s barking. If your Leopard Gecko barks, it’s best to gently put it back into their tank and let them hide. If they are barking in their tank, there might be something wrong with their environment – check the humidity, temperature (including spot-checking with an infrared thermometer gun), and check if they’ve been eating and pooping normally. Any abnormality or health issue could be the problem.
Screaming: Even more serious than barking is screaming. Leopard Geckos tend to scream when they feel threatened, scared, or in danger. Very young geckos may scream at first when they are getting used to you and being handled. Make sure to not push their boundaries much and ease off if they start screaming. Adult geckos should rarely ever scream once they feel safe with you.
3. Leopard Geckos have a Multi-Function Tail
A Leopard Gecko’s tail makes up for as much as a quarter of their entire body mass – and has many important roles to play. The most-used function of their tail is as fat storage – while Leopard Geckos have access to food, they build up a fat storage that is mainly focused on their tail. That’s why the tail is also usually the easiest way to determine if a gecko is overweight or underweight.
Their tail is also used as the well-known escape mechanism: When chased by a predator, a Leopard Gecko drops their tail as a distraction. The tail will continue twitching for a few seconds, drawing the attention of the predator. Because of the fat storage in the tail, it is actually quite a good catch for the hunter. This enables the gecko to escape mostly unharmed. However, unlike many other geckos, a Leopard Gecko’s tail can regrow. It will look a bit different, but is overall fully functional.
Leopard Geckos also slowly “wave” with their tail while either stalking prey, or facing a potential threat – like two adult male Leos in a fight for territory. When they slowly wave their tail, it’s best not to handle them right now.
However, they may also shake their tail quickly, almost like a rattlesnake – which is more a sign of excitement. This can also be done to attract a mate – especially for males, when seeing a nearby female gecko.
Keep in mind that when Leopard Geckos walk, they also move their tails side to side – this is normal walking behavior, and has nothing to do with feeling threatened or excited.
4. Leopard Geckos have eyelids
Translated from Latin, Eublepharis means “good eyelids” and “macular” means spotted. So a leopard gecko is a spotted lizard with “good,” or functional, eyelids.
Unlike many other common geckos, Leopard Geckos have eyelids and can close their eyes. This is actually a feature important enough to be the distinctive factor between the two different families of geckos: Eublepharidae and Gekkonidae.
The main feature of the Eublepharidae family is the ability to blink. The Leopard Gecko, or Eublepharis Macularius, is an example of that.
The Crested Gecko, for example, belongs to the Gekkonidae family and has no eyelids – but instead, they have toe pads for climbing. Leopard Geckos and similar species have clawed feet instead.
You may sometimes observe your Leopard Gecko licking its eyeballs – that is perfectly normal cleaning behavior. More commonly, gecko owners see their pet blinking or winking – which is one of the reasons why Leopard Geckos seem more relatable to us than other gecko species.
5. Leopard Geckos are clumsy climbers
As mentioned in the previous fact, Leopard Geckos have clawed feet rather than sticky toe pads like many other gecko species. This is because in their natural habitat of arid deserts, climbing is not really necessary. They are mainly ground-dwelling, digging reptiles.
While they enjoy exploring and climbing up on rocks and branches on the ground, they are unable to climb vertical or smooth surfaces. You might even see them struggle while climbing around their enclosure, as they are simply not built to climb much.
6. Their gender is decided by incubation temperature
Unlike most pets we know, a Leopard Gecko’s sex isn’t decided by genetic factors, but almost exclusively by temperature while the egg is incubating. However, it’s not that higher temperature produces more male or female geckos – instead, it’s quite variable.
Female Leopard Geckos are predominantly produced when incubated at 79°F/26°C (100%), 86°F/30°C (70%), and 93°F/34°C (95%), whereas males are predominantly produced at 90°F/32.5°C (75%). (source)
Another study, as well as common Leopard Gecko breeder practices, simplify this: Cooler incubation temperatures lead to more females hatching, while warmer temperatures lead to more males. However, high temperatures lead to more females again. (source)
Another interesting fact is that behavior is also affected by temperature: Females incubated at male-biased temperatures exhibited more aggression, while also being less attractive (to male Leopard Geckos).
7. Leopard Geckos store Calcium in a Strange Place
Unlike fat, Leopard Geckos don’t store calcium all across their body – instead, they store it in two little bumps under their armpits. It’s a good idea to occasionally check these lumps when handling your gecko. If they seem smaller than usual or empty, your gecko may have a calcium deficiency, which is quite dangerous. It’s a good idea to get it checked by a vet if you notice this.
8. There are over 150 Leopard Gecko morphs
As one of the most popular pet geckos, Leopard Geckos are also known for having an incredibly number of variety. Over 150 Leopard Gecko morphs exist today – and more are still being bred. These morphs show distinct markings, colors, lack of marking or color, or a combination of multiple features. They can also have different types of eyes, or even make the gecko grow to a much larger size.
While the basic “wild type” Leopard Gecko morphs are quite cheap, usually between 50-100$, rarer morphs can cost up to 1.000 dollars, and some are so rare that you can’t even buy them.
9. Albino Leopard Geckos are atypical
Like other animals, Leopard Geckos can be albinos. However, these albino Leopard Geckos usually don’t look like what you’d expect – many have various colors on their skin instead of being plain white, and their eyes can also be one of a few variations – red being only one of them.
There are only three lines of albinos available: Tremper, Bell, and Rainwater – all named after their breeders. However, these can and are interbred with all kinds of other morphs and variations, creating a wild variety of morphs. The Diablo Blanco is the most typical albino – completely white with strong red eyes. However, most albinos feature slight yellow, green, lavender, or orange colors; as well as pinkish, or greyish eyes.
These albino morphs are rare in the wild, as the light coloring makes it easy for predators to spot them, but a large number of Leopard Geckos bred for pet owners are of one albino trait line. As pets, only the UVB lamps are a potential problem for albinos – otherwise, they are perfectly healthy and make for great pets.
10. Leopard Geckos can have incredible eye variation
As mentioned before, there is a wide variety of Leopard Gecko morphs available today – but not only the skin color changes between these morphs. From plain dark or red eyes to marble-like or even galaxy-style eyes, Leopard Geckos have some of the most incredible eyes!
Some albino morphs, mainly RAPTOR morphs, feature strong red eyes.
The Eclipse trait makes a Leopard Gecko feature eyes that are fully colored – usually all black.
The Marble Eye trait has just been first discovered in 2006 and is still barely understood. It creates an anomaly that makes the eyes look almost three-dimensional with a marble-like look.
Snake eyes look almost like eyes of a snake, with a thin black line in the middle – however, they are also often half-eclipse. These eyes are half normal, and half solid black.
There are more variations, and likely more to be found, and from each breeder, slightly different variations are created every year.
11. Leopard Geckos have great vision
Leopard Geckos aren’t just great looking, but also great at looking! Their eyesight is very good, better than most other gecko species. In fact, their sight is so good, it’s comparable to that of a cat. In the wild, they can successfully hunt even on a moonless night in almost complete darkness.
Additionally, they can see color even when it’s dark, an ability important for their twilight and night based lifestyle. For the same reason, they appear to be unable to see red light, though. However, it’s not yet proven if red light lamps are truly “invisible” to them – there is concern that red light still disrupts their regular day-night cycle if turned on at night.
Because of their eye placement, they also have incredible peripheral vision. They can see in a wide range all around them, perfect for spotting a predator from every angle. However, they don’t have a high focal length, meaning their long-distance sight is quite bad.
12. You can see through a Leopard Gecko’s head through the ears
Unlike most mammals, Leopard Geckos don’t have ears – instead, they have an ear canals with one interesting feature: you can see through it. You can see light on the other side of your gecko’s head through their “ears”.
13. Leopard Geckos have really long tongues
A Leopard Gecko’s tongue is not only really long, it is also slightly bifurcated (split) like a snake’s. They use their tongue not only for cleaning, but also like snakes, for “smelling” their environment.
14. Leopard Geckos are quite new as pets
Leopard geckos were first described as a species by zoologist Edward Blyth in 1854 as Eublepharis macularius. They used to be imported from their natural habitat in the middle eastern desert regions like Pakistan or Afghanistan, but importing them was since outlawed in the United States in the 1970s.
Since then, they are mostly being bred by professional breeders and sold both in pet stores and through online marketplaces. Because Leopard Geckos can lay eggs quite frequently – female geckos can lay up to around 80 to 100 eggs across their entire lifetime – they quickly became not only popular, but affordable and easy-to-buy pets. However, unlike many other pets, they have only really become pets in the 1960s, and haven’t been a widespread and common pet until many years later.