Crested Gecko Anatomy – The Complete Guide
If you’re interested in crested geckos, this is the article to read. Today, we will discuss the crested gecko anatomy in detail to shed light on the lizard’s profile and functioning. This will allow you to better understand your reptile pet and its needs and care for it properly over the years.
So, let’s dive right in!
Crested Gecko External Anatomy
Learn about the external anatomy of Crested Geckos! From their skin texture to the various markings they can have, discover everything you need to know about this fascinating reptile.
The crested gecko’s head appears oversized compared to the rest of the body. The snout is slightly longer, with a sharp nose and big eyes. Several characteristics are visible on the gecko’s head:
- The eyes – Large and bulbous with adjustable retinae, allowing the gecko to see almost perfectly in the dark. The eyes’ large surface area is ideal for capturing more light to improve vision in low-light environments. This is a must characteristic for any nocturnal animal.
- The crest and eyelashes – The eyelashes consist of elevated skin above the eyes, forming sharp but soft crests. The gecko keeps its eyelashes erect when awake and plants them horizontal to the ground when sleeping. The eyes will remain open 24/7, although the gecko may suck the eyeballs in during rest time to protect them from dryness. The head crest consists of two rows that continue down the nape and back.
- Teeth – Geckos only have very small teeth to help them grip their prey more effectively. They cannot use their teeth for defensive purposes since they aren’t strong or long enough to inflict any relevant damage. Make no mistake, the gecko will bite in extreme cases, but it’s unlikely that that will cause anything more than some mild discomfort.
- Nose – Two small holes as nostrils, and that’s all that gecko needs to sniff its prey and explore its habitat without moving. Crested geckos have a good sense of smell.
- Ears – In typical reptile fashion, no external ears are present. You only have two slits, one on each side of the head, protected by a membrane.
- Tongue – Geckos have thick and meaty tongues that they use to collect scent particles from the air. The tongue will drag the particles on the mouth roof, where special olfactory organs can detect the source of the scent. In other words, geckos use their tongues to smell. They also use it to lick their eyes and keep them moist, allowing the tongue to function as a mobile eyelid.
Crested geckos are medium-sized, capable of reaching 8-10 inches as adults. They are long with agile bodies and compact limbs for ease of movement. The head is generally wide and slightly oversized compared to that of other lizards. One of the reasons is the side crest that artificially increases the head’s wideness.
Crested geckos have a fine and smooth skin covered by minute scales for improved protection. Despite its apparent fragility, the skin is quite durable, perfect at protecting the gecko against rougher surfaces. This is a welcomed characteristic, given that geckos tend to rub against branches, tree bark, and other solid and rough objects.
The color and pattern can vary depending on the morph. Multiple morphs are available today, all different in color and color pattern, depending on the morph’s specifics.
Geckos can change their skin color slightly, depending on environmental factors like humidity, lighting, and temperature, via a process called ‘firing up.’ They also shed regularly to renew their skin. An adult gecko can shed every 3-4 weeks and will lose its coloring when the shedding session approaches.
Crested geckos have respectable tails that they use to navigate their habitat, maintain their balance when walking, jumping, and running, and protect themselves against predators. An adult gecko’s tail can grow as large as 6 inches, often as long as the gecko’s entire body.
The tail is prehensile, similar to that of monkeys, so the gecko can use it as an appendix to grab branches to hang or swing to reach other areas. They can also grab objects of interest and drag them closer. The tail tip is also round and contains a sticky pad similar to those present on the exterior of the toes. This allows the reptile to use the tail as support when hanging upside down on a vertical wall.
Geckos are also capable of caudal autotomy, which is the ability to separate the tail between specific vertebrae in cases of extreme stress or risk of predation. The tail is autonomous for approximately 3-5 minutes, during which it moves and wiggles around, keeping the predator busy while the gecko is making a run for it. The tail won’t grow back, as with other gecko species. As a result, the gecko will lose some of its mobility and balance with time.
Interesting fact: most wild geckos don’t have tails. This is partly due to the higher predation risk, causing the geckos to lose their tails fairly early. Another proposed explanation is that they don’t need tails because they limit the geckos’ movement through vegetation, especially when pursued by predators. A gecko without a tail is lighter and moves easier through the richer habitat.
Captive-bred geckos don’t need to worry about predation, so their anatomy has adapted to the new environment.
The gecko’s limbs are short, powerful, and decorated with sticky toepads. The toepads contain setae, which are microscopic hairs designed to stick to pretty much any surface. You will often see geckos hanging on perfectly vertical and smooth surfaces, including the tank walls, with little-to-no effort.
Not many people know that crested geckos curl their toes upward when walking on horizontal surfaces. This is because the reptiles cannot control their toes’ stickiness. So, they need to curl their toes upwards to prevent the toepads from touching the surface.
Crested Gecko Internal Anatomy
In the following section, discover the characteristics of crested gecko internal anatomy:
– Skeletal System
Geckos are vertebrates, so they have a well-developed skeletal system. The main problem to consider is that crested geckos often suffer from calcium deficiency which can degenerate into Metabolic Bone Disease in severe cases. They can also inherit their parents’ bone density. So, if their parents struggled with weak bone density, the chance is that so will the offspring.
You should always assess your gecko’s bone density and calcium and D3 intake to prevent bone-related problems. Fortunately, I’ve written more extensive articles on gecko diet and health problems to consider, so check those too.
– Digestive System
The digestive system is typical reptilian and includes the following components:
- The mouth
- The salivary glands
- The esophagus
- The stomach
- The intestine and
- The cloaca
In typical reptile fashion, geckos swallow their food whole, which means they need time to digest it properly. This causes adult geckos to only eat 3-4 times per week, depending on their last meal size and nutritional content. An interesting aspect here is that geckos can experience several digestive problems depending on what and how they eat.
If the live food they eat is too large, it can get stuck in the intestine and lead to compaction. Juvenile geckos can have problems digesting mealworms or other insects with hard shells. Dehydration or improper temperatures can cause geckos to experience digestive difficulties as well.
These are all important mentions because they help you understand your gecko’s physiology and how to optimize its diet and feeding.
– Nervous System
Crested geckos are generally smarter than amphibians but rank below birds. This makes them quite intelligent for their size, which shows in their behavior. Crested geckos exhibit the ability to learn their habitat, distinguish between predators and prey, and adapt to new circumstances, often on the fly.
They can also learn your voice, smell, and face to distinguish you from other humans. This is a useful ability, allowing geckos to understand their habitat better.
Geckos can also showcase some impressive problem-solving abilities, although these are less obvious in captive-bred specimens. Wild geckos are more versatile in this sense, as they should be, given the increased risk of predation.
Despite the gecko’s decent nervous system, don’t expect it to learn any tricks anytime soon. Crested geckos are feral animals you cannot domesticate like a cat or a dog.
– Respiratory System
The respiratory system is typical for a vertebrate. The lungs are located behind the rib cage, protected by the ribs, fat, and muscles present in the area. The environmental conditions heavily influence the gecko’s breathing. The reptile requires proper humidity and temperature to breathe properly; otherwise, it can experience health problems.
If humidity is below the acceptable limit or the environmental temperature is too high or too low, the gecko can experience respiratory infections. If the humidity is too high, the reptile is at risk for developing pneumonia. Both of these conditions are deadly in most advanced cases.
So, you should always keep your gecko’s environmental parameters within the recommended values.
– Reproductive System
Crested geckos showcase distinct sexual dimorphism. Males have two hemipenal bulges near the cloaca, which look like testicles protruding through the skin. These become more visible when the male reaches at least 3 inches and 21 grams in weight. However, this doesn’t mean that the gecko male has reached full maturity. You should wait until the male doubles in size and grows up to 35-40 grams which tends to happen by the age of 18-24 months.
The same timeframe is necessary for females to reach complete sexual maturity as well.
Crested geckos lay eggs, typically 2 every 30-45 days in the breeding season. The eggs can incubate for up to 70 days, depending on the environmental conditions.
Crested geckos are simple creatures with simple demands. They only require optimized parameters, a familiar ecosystem, good food, and proper care, and they will remain by your side for decades to come.
Learn as much as possible about your gecko, and you will be ready for anything moving forward.