The leopard gecko or common leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius) is a ground-dwelling gecko native to the rocky dry grassland and desert regions of Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, India, and Nepal. The leopard gecko has become a popular pet, and due to extensive captive breeding it is sometimes referred to as the first domesticated species of lizard.

Leopard gecko
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Eublepharidae
Genus: Eublepharis
E. macularius
Binomial name
Eublepharis macularius
(Blyth, 1854)
  • Cyrtodactylus macularius
  • Cyrtodactylus madarensis
  • Eublepharis fasciolatus
  • Eublepharis gracilis



Leopard geckos were first described as a species by zoologist Edward Blyth in 1854 as Eublepharis macularius.[1] The generic name Eublepharis is a combination of the Greek words eu (good) and blepharos (eyelid), as having eyelids is the primary characteristic that distinguishes members of this subfamily from other geckos, along with a lack of lamellae. The specific name macularius derives from the Latin word macula meaning "spot" or "blemish", referring to the animal's natural spotted markings.[2]

There are five subspecies of E. macularius:[3]

Distribution and habitat


The native habitat of the leopard gecko includes the rocky, dry grassland, and desert regions of south-Asian Afghanistan, Pakistan, north-west India, western Nepal, and some parts of Iran.[4][5][6][7] Leopard geckos inhabit arid and semi-arid areas with sparse vegetation and clay or sandy soils, as well as rocky habitat where crevices can be used as shelter.[4][8] They reportedly avoid areas where the primary substrate is sand.[9] Leopard geckos may also be found in arid forests of Nepal and Pakistan, and are reported to shelter under loose bark of trees in these environments.[6][5] Winter temperatures within the range of the leopard gecko can be quite low, below 10 °C (50 °F), forcing the animals underground into semi-hibernation, called brumation, living on fat reserves.

The Aravalli Biodiversity Park in Delhi, India, is a habitat populated by leopard gecko[10]

Behaviour and ecology


Wild leopard geckos are generally considered to be nocturnal by field biology sources, academic herpetology sources, and some animal husbandry guides.[11][4][12][5][9][13] During the day they retreat to burrows and sheltered hiding spots, becoming active at dusk when the temperature is favorable.[6][9][14] Naturalist David Attenborough asserts in the wildlife documentary series Life in Cold Blood: "A leopard gecko—like most geckos—is nocturnal, and it manages to get all the heat it needs from rocks, which retain something of their warmth for several hours after the sun has set."[15] Similarly, Nepalese biologist Yam Rawat writes: "Leopard Geckos remained undetected in Nepal until [2016]. This could be attributable to the secretive nocturnal nature of the species."[6] In contrast, some sources focused on husbandry of captive leopard geckos have asserted leopard geckos are crepuscular or even cathemeral reptiles.[16][17][18] This assertion has been used to explain the ability of leopard geckos to use UVB exposure to synthesize vitamin D3 in captivity, and as a rationale for providing captive leopard geckos with access to UVB lighting.[16] John Courtney Smith, the brand manager for UVB light manufacturing company Arcadia Reptile, asserts in Bio-activity and the Theory of Wild Re-Creation: "The leopard gecko is quite crepuscular in its home range ... there are many reports of them being seen even in full daytime desert sunlight openly basking".[18]

There is also debate as to the degree that leopard geckos interact with conspecifics in the wild. Academic sources have asserted that leopard geckos live in loose colonies in the wild.[5][9] Pet keeping guides often claim these geckos are solitary and do not usually live with other animals.[14][4]


A leopard gecko consumes a small insect

Leopard geckos are opportunistic predators that eat a variety of prey items.[12] Invertebrates are presumed to make up the majority of wild geckos' diets, but they will also eat small vertebrate prey if given the opportunity, including mouse pups, smaller reptiles, and even hatchling leopard geckos.[5][4][19] Breeders of captive leopard geckos report that sufficiently fed leopard geckos will not cannibalize young, and that the cannibalistic behavior appears to take place only in poorly fed animals.[4]


E. macularius with regenerated tail.

Leopard geckos are small lizards that derive their name from their spotted coloration. Hatchlings are on average 7 to 10 cm (2.8 to 3.9 in) in length and weigh about 2 to 5 grams. Adult females are about 18 to 20 cm (7.1 to 7.9 in) in length and weigh about 50 to 70 grams, while adult male geckos are about 20 to 28 cm (7.9 to 11.0 in) in length and weigh about 60 to 80 grams.[20]

Unlike many other species of geckos, leopard gecko toes do not have adhesive lamellae, so they cannot climb smooth vertical walls.

In the wild, leopard geckos live for an average of 4.9 years,[21] while in captivity they can live for more than 20 years with the proper care.[22]



Leopard geckos are polyphyodonts and able to replace each of their 100 teeth every 3 to 4 months.[23] Next to the full grown tooth there is a small replacement tooth developing from the odontogenic stem cell in the dental lamina.[24]



Leopard geckos have distinctly thick tails that store fat; similar to the way in which camels' humps serve as reservoirs of fatty tissue, the fat stored in the tails of leopard geckos acts as an energy reserve that the geckos can use as nourishment if there is not an available food supply.[25] When hunting, a leopard gecko may lift its tail in a twitching or wagging motion as it approaches its prey; after the gecko eats its prey, the tail will then return to a relaxed position.[26]

Like most geckos, leopard geckos have an ability called autotomy: their tails can regenerate when lost; however, the regenerated tails appear stumpy and never have the same appearance as the original tail.[14]

Defense mechanisms

Tail Regeneration in E. macularius.[27] (A) Three days post‐autotomy: Initially the site of tail loss is capped by a temporary clot. Note the earliest evidence of the blastema (hatched area). (B) Eight days post autonomy: loss of the clot reveals a complete wound epithelium. The blastema continues to expand both distally and laterally. (C) With continued growth, the blastema begins to dominate the site of tail loss.

Wild leopard geckos’ primary defense against predators is to avoid detection. This is accomplished with cryptic coloration serving as camouflage. They also remain hidden during daytime, to avoid heat and the risk of being spotted and captured by diurnal predators.[14] If a leopard gecko is confronted by a potential predator, it may vocalize in an attempt to ward off this predator.[14]

Leopard geckos also possess caudal autotomy; this is the ability to voluntarily detach their tail when attacked. After detachment the tail can continue to twitch for as long as 30 minutes, providing a distraction to buy time for the gecko to escape from its predator.[28][29] The tail is large and at least in one related species (Christinus marmoratus) it has been reported that the tail-less fleeing gecko makes for a quicker getaway.[30] Fractures in the tailbone allow the tail to separate easily and rapid vasoconstriction allows the gecko to suffer minimal blood loss. This detaching of the tail causes a high level of stress on the gecko due to the loss of the valuable storage of fat it once had.[31] It will start to regenerate its tail immediately after detachment. Regenerated tails often retain similar colors to the original tail. However, they are often smooth and generally shorter and wider than the original tail.

Chromatophores and color pigmentation

An example of a group of chromatophores.

Leopard geckos range in color from a yellow to brownish-orange base with spots covering all or mostly half of the dorsal region of the body. Their color is derived from pigment-containing cells known as chromatophores.[32] These cells are responsible for an array of coloration seen in all reptiles, amphibians, birds and some species of insects. Chromatophores come in a variety of types based on the color they correspond to. Chromatophore types include xanthophores (responsible for yellow coloration), erythrophores (responsible for red coloration), iridophores (responsible for iridescence), leucophores (responsible for white coloration), melanophores (responsible for black coloration), and cyanophores (responsible for blue coloration). The skin of wild leopard geckos contains xanthophores (yellow) and melanophores (black spots). Designer leopard geckos may possess erythrophores and leucophores since commercial breeding and artificial selection have allowed novel coloration to arise.[33]

Sexual dimorphism


Sexual dimorphism is defined as a phenotypic difference between males and females of a species. It can be commonly found in animals, such as the leopard gecko and other reptiles.[34] It exists in adult males and females, but can be difficult to determine in young geckos. The underside of a gecko truly determines the sex of the gecko. Males have pre-anal pores and hemipenal bulges while females have smaller pores and do not have external bulges.[14]

Males can determine the sex of other leopard geckos by smelling pheromones on their skin. Males respond to males with aggressive behavior while they demonstrate courtship behavior towards females. Towards other males, the male would raise itself up from the ground, extend his limbs, and arch his back with the swelling of the tongue in aggression. He will then make short dashes and quick, vigorous bites, which frequently lacerate the skin and sometimes severely injure his opponent. Males behave the same way towards females while females are shedding their skin. Before and after the shedding of the skin, the males still express courtship behavior towards the females.[35]


A hatchling leopard gecko displays the characteristic banded coloration of juveniles.

Leopard geckos typically breed in the summer. Females can store sperm over the course of their breeding season, and produce up to three clutches from one or two copulations.[36] Females can lay about six to eight clutches of two eggs; eggs are laid approximately 21 to 28 days after mating. The average amount of time it takes for a newborn to hatch is anywhere between 35 and 89 days, although it is usually closer to the latter.[37] Baby leopard geckos will have an "egg tooth", a calcareous tip at the end of its snout to help break their egg shell. Their "egg tooth" will fall off within one to two days. In addition to this, their skin will usually shed within 24 hours of hatching. The leopard gecko hatchling will not be able to eat until after the first shedding.[14]

Leopard geckos are also known to have temperature-dependent sex determination. Embryos incubated in predominantly cool temperatures (about 26–29 °C [79–84 °F]) or very warm temperatures (about 34–35 °C [93–95 °F]) will develop as females, while embryos incubated at intermediate temperatures (about 31–33 °C [88–91 °F]) will develop as male. Determination of sex is believed to be set during the first two weeks of incubation. Females born in the higher temperatures differed from those who were born in the lower temperatures hormonally and behaviorally. Those born in the warmer temperatures expressed more aggressive behavior.[38] These are known as "hot females" and are often determined to be infertile.

Leopard geckos as pets

A pet leopard gecko. Note the coloration has diverged from the drab spotted wild type due to selective breeding.

Leopard geckos are one of the most popular lizard pets, second only to the bearded dragon.[39] They are possibly the first domesticated lizard species.[40][41][42] They are easy to breed under captive conditions, so most sold are captive-bred rather than wild-caught.[43][44][45] Due to extensive captive breeding and artificial selection, captive animals display a range of colors and patterns. Those found in the wild typically have more dull colorations than those kept in captivity as pets.[4]

See also



  1. ^ Pockman, R. (1976). "1854. Proceedings of the Society. Report of the Curator, Zoological Department". Saurologica (2): 1–15.
  2. ^ "Leopard Gecko Taxonomy". Archived from the original on 6 January 2014. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
  3. ^ "Eublepharis macularius". The Reptile Database. Retrieved 14 January 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g De Vosjoli, Philippe. (2005). The herpetoculture of leopard geckos : twenty-seven generations of living art. Tremper, Ron., Klingenberg, Roger J., 1954-. [Place of publication not identified]: Advanced Visions. ISBN 0-9742971-2-7. OCLC 61484909.
  5. ^ a b c d e "leopard gecko Eublepharis macularious from Pakistan". ResearchGate. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d Rawat, Yam (March 2019). "First Records of the Common Leopard Gecko, Eublepharis macularius (Blyth 1854) (Eublepharidae), in Nepal". IRCF Reptiles and Amphibians. 26: 58–61. doi:10.17161/randa.v26i1.14342. S2CID 242524254.
  7. ^ "revised herpetology of habitat types". ResearchGate. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  8. ^ Henkel, Friedrich-Wilhelm (1995). Geckoes : biology, husbandry, and reproduction. Wolfgang Schmidt. Malabar, Fla.: Krieger. ISBN 0-89464-919-1. OCLC 31207230.
  9. ^ a b c d Minton A, Sherman (1966). "A contribution to the herpetology of West Pakistan". Bulletin of the AMNH. 134 (article 2): 72. hdl:2246/1129. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
  10. ^ "EUBLEPHARIS MACULARIUS (Indian Leopard Gecko)".
  11. ^ Vitt, Laurie J. (2014). Herpetology : an introductory biology of amphibians and reptiles. Janalee P. Caldwell (4th ed.). Amsterdam. p. 561. ISBN 978-0-12-386919-7. OCLC 839312807.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  12. ^ a b The eyelash geckos care, breeding and natural history. Seufer, Hermann. Karlsruhe. 2005. ISBN 978-3-9804207-8-5. OCLC 181523397.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) CS1 maint: others (link)
  13. ^ Gamble, Tony; Greenbaum, Eli; Jackman, Todd R.; Bauer, Aaron M. (1 August 2015). "Into the light: diurnality has evolved multiple times in geckos". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 115 (4): 896–910. doi:10.1111/bij.12536. ISSN 0024-4066.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Hamper, Robbie (2004). The Leopard Gecko, Eublepharis macularius, in Captivity. Lansing, MI: ECO Herpetological Publishing & Distribution. ISBN 0971319782. OCLC 707945035.
  15. ^ "BBC One - Life in Cold Blood". BBC. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  16. ^ a b Gould, Amelia; Molitor, Laure; Rockwell, Kelly; Watson, Megan; Mitchell, Mark A. (2018). "Evaluating the Physiologic Effects of Short Duration Ultraviolet B Radiation Exposure in Leopard Geckos (Eublepharis macularius)". Journal of Herpetological Medicine and Surgery. 28 (1): 34–39. doi:10.5818/17-11-136.1. ISSN 1529-9651. S2CID 89881163.
  17. ^ Courteney-Smith, John (2013). The Arcadia guide to MBD and its elimination in captivity. [Redhill, Surrey]. ISBN 978-0-9576570-0-7. OCLC 847724946.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  18. ^ a b Courteney-Smith, John (2016). The Arcadia guide to bio-activity and the theory of wild re-creation. Arcadia Books Limited. ISBN 978-0-9576570-3-8. OCLC 958464122.
  19. ^ Woods, Vickie. "Eublepharis macularius (Common Leopard Gecko)". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  20. ^ "Leopard Gecko Information & Facts".
  21. ^ Bowler, J.K., 1975. Longevity of reptiles and amphibians in N. American collections as of 1 November, 1975. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Herpetological Circular 6:1-32. Retrieved 10 June, 2024.
  22. ^ Henkel, F., W. Schmidt. 1995. Geckoes : biology, husbandry, and reproduction. Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company. Retrieved 10 June, 2024
  23. ^ "Mechanism of tooth replacement in Leopard geckos". Archived from the original on 12 March 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  24. ^ Identification of putative dental epithelial stem cells in a lizard with lifelong tooth replacement
  25. ^ Harrington, Jane (2006). Extreme Pets. Scholastic Corporation. p. 16. ISBN 978-0439829489.
  26. ^ Palika, Liz (2007). Leopard Geckos for Dummies. Wiley Publishing, Inc. ISBN 978-0470121603.
  27. ^ Gilbert, E. A. B.; Delorme, S. L.; Vickaryous, M. K. (11 May 2015). "The regeneration blastema of lizards: an amniote model for the study of appendage replacement". Regeneration. 2 (2): 45–53. doi:10.1002/reg2.31. ISSN 2052-4412. PMC 4895314. PMID 27499867.
  28. ^ "Ta-da!". Audubon Magazine. Archived from the original on 13 July 2013. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  29. ^ Higham, T. E.; Russell, A. P. (2009). "Flip, flop and fly: Modulated motor control and highly variable movement patterns of autotomized gecko tails". Biology Letters. 6 (1): 70–73. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2009.0577. PMC 2817253. PMID 19740891.
  30. ^ Daniels, Christopher B. (1983). "Running: an escape strategy enhanced by autotomy". Herpetologica. 39 (2): 162–165. JSTOR 3892556.
  31. ^ Smith, Pauline (2004). "Leopard Gecko Care Sheet". The Gecko Spot. Archived from the original on 19 July 2019. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  32. ^ "Under the Microscope: Leopard Gecko Skin". Office for Science and Society. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  33. ^ "Nico Franco". Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  34. ^ Kratochvil, L.; Frynta, D. (2002). "Body Size, Male Combat and the Evolution of Sexual Dimorphism in Eublepharid Geckos (Squamata: Eublepharidae)". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 76 (2): 303–314. doi:10.1046/j.1095-8312.2002.00064.x.
  35. ^ Mason, R.T.; Gutzke, W.H.N. (1990). "Sex Recognition in the Leopard Gecko, Eublepharis macularius (Sauria: Gekkonidae) Possible Mediation by Skin-Derived Semiochemicals". Journal of Chemical Ecology. 16 (1): 27–36. doi:10.1007/BF01021265. PMID 24264893. S2CID 28887051.
  36. ^ LaDage, L.D.; Ferkin, M.H. (2008). "Do Conspecific Cues Affect Follicular Development in the Female Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius)?". Behaviour. 145 (8): 1027–39. doi:10.1163/156853908784474506. S2CID 7678728.
  37. ^ "Leopard Gecko Breeding". December 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  38. ^ Viets, B.E.; Tousignant, A.; Ewert, M.A.; Nelson, C.E.; Crews, D. (1993). "Temperature Dependent Sex Determination in the Leopard Gecko, Eublepharis macularius". The Journal of Experimental Zoology. 265 (6): 679–683. doi:10.1002/jez.1402650610. PMID 8487018. S2CID 23381743.
  39. ^ Valdez, Jose W. (March 2021). "Using Google Trends to Determine Current, Past, and Future Trends in the Reptile Pet Trade". Animals. 11 (3): 676. doi:10.3390/ani11030676. PMC 8001315. PMID 33802560.
  40. ^ de Vosjoli, Philippe; Klingenberg, Roger; Tremper, Ron; Viets, Brian (2004). The Leopard Gecko Manual. BowTie, Inc. p. 5. ISBN 1-882770-62-5.
  41. ^ Palika, Liz (2011). Leopard Geckos for Dummies. Wiley. ISBN 978-1-11806-827-4.
  42. ^ McLeod, Lianne. "Geckos as Pets". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  43. ^ Pavia, Audrey (4 December 1998). The Gecko: An Owner's Guide to a Happy Healthy Pet (1 ed.). Special Markets Department, Macmillan Publishing USA, 1633 Broadway, New York, NY 10019-6785: Macmillan Publishers Ltd. pp. 68–69. ISBN 9780876052129. Retrieved 9 January 2019.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  44. ^ Peacock, Hanna M; Gilbert, Emily A B; Vickaryous, Matthew K (November 2015). "Scar-free cutaneous wound healing in the leopard gecko, Eublepharis macularius". Journal of Anatomy. 227 (5): 596–610. doi:10.1111/joa.12368. ISSN 0021-8782. PMC 4609196. PMID 26360824.
  45. ^ McDonald, Rebecca P.; Vickaryous, Matthew K. (25 June 2018). "Evidence for neurogenesis in the medial cortex of the leopard gecko, Eublepharis macularius". Scientific Reports. 8 (1): 9648. Bibcode:2018NatSR...8.9648M. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-27880-6. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 6018638. PMID 29941970.