Why Do Crested Geckos Lick Their Eyes?
Crested geckos exhibit various behaviors, and each tells a story about the reptile’s biology and physiology. Today, we will discuss geckos licking their eyes periodically; a behavior that may seem peculiar to an inexperienced gecko keeper.
Your goal regarding geckos should be to learn everything you can about the species. This will allow you to make better calls regarding your pet’s health and long-term wellbeing.
If you’re unfamiliar with crested gecko physiology, it may be difficult to distinguish between normal and abnormal behaviors.
So, let’s dive into it.
Reasons Crested Geckos Lick Their Eyes
Geckos will lick their eyes regularly. The lizards will exhibit this behavior more frequently in some cases, such as in environments with low humidity or overly dusty.
There are 2 main explanations as to why geckos lick their eyes:
1. Moistening Their Eyes
Geckos lack any eyelids, which could cause severe problems should they not possess their extra long and flexible tongue. The eyes are naturally covered by a protective layer called the cornea.
This thin lid protects the pupils and sclera, but it’s by no means failproof. It also needs moistening to retain its integrity; otherwise, it will dry out and cause vision problems soon.
In humans and other eyelid enjoyers, the eyelid itself does all the moistening work. Geckos don’t have that luxury, so they need to improvise. Fortunately, nature has provided them with the ability to use their tongues as eyelids.
This way, they will keep their eyes moist and humid, keeping the cornea in functioning shape.
Doing so is imperative to preserving the gecko’s vision since these animals rely on their vision first and foremost when hunting and detecting environmental threats.
A blindsided or blind gecko has virtually zero chances of surviving in the wild and minimal survival in captivity.
2. Cleaning Their Eyes
Gecko’s eyes are large, occupying nearly 25% of their skull. It makes sense since geckos are nocturnal animals that need all the help they can get to see in darkness.
The larger the eye’s surface is, the better the organ is at capturing even dim light. You can see this feature in all nocturnal animals like bats, owls, and even some felines.
The problem is that having big eyes and no eyelids will come with some problems along the way. One of them is the accumulation of dirt and debris on the eye’s surface, which could cause discomfort.
The gecko solves the problem by constantly licking its eyeballs to keep them clean of environmental debris.
Why Crested Geckos Can’t Blink?
The answer is fairly simple – because blinking requires eyelids, and geckos lack those. However, this isn’t a reptile-specific issue; not even a gecko-specific one. Many reptiles have eyelids like alligators.
In fact, alligators have 2 sets of eyelids. The outer set operates like a classical eyelid, keeping the eyes moist and clean. The inner set moves from side to side instead of up-down and only comes into play when the alligator submerges.
This will keep the predator’s eyes clean and protected while still allowing it to see underwater. It’s an amazing feature speaking volumes of the gator’s evolutionary success and a statement of nature’s imbalanced feature distribution.
How are you going to give the alligator 2 sets of eyelids and then force the gecko to use its tongue to clean the eyes?
Fortunately, there are several gecko species that do possess eyelids. Leopard geckos are one of the 43 species that have fully functioning outer lids.
The rest of the 1,500 gecko species available need to rely on their tongues instead, including crested geckos.
How Often Do Crested Geckos Lick Their Eyes?
There isn’t a set frequency by which geckos will lick their eyes. It all depends on the environmental factors.
If the humidity levels are subpar, the gecko’s eyes may dry out faster, causing the lizard to lick them more frequently.
Why is My Crested Gecko Keep Licking Its Eye?
It’s probably due to the low humidity in its environment. Or maybe it has an eye injury causing discomfort in the area.
It’s natural for geckos to lick their eyes rather frequently, but it’s abnormal if they do it constantly.
If that’s your situation, I recommend picking the gecko gently and investigating its eyes up close. Look for signs of bacterial infections around the eye socket or parasites, or injuries that may cause discomfort and pain.
Identifying and treating these issues early on will prevent more serious complications down the road.
However, since we’re here, it’s worth mentioning that geckos will also use their tongue to taste and smell their environment. This is possible thanks to the Jacobson organ located on the reptile’s mouth palate, functioning as an olfactory device.
The gecko launches its tongue in the air to capture various airborne particles and transport them to the Jacobson organ.
This technique allows the gecko to catch the scent of anything of interest, including prey, predator, food, your presence, etc. They may also lick their face and nose for the same reason.
Even more, geckos frequently lick their faces when getting ready to shed. That’s because reptiles shed their skin starting with their face and continuing down the body.
So, the gecko will lick its face incessantly when the shedding process begins.
Always assess your gecko’s licking behavior to make sure it has to do with the eyes and not something else.
Geckos lick their eyes to keep them humid, healthy, and clean. They also use their tongues to smell their environment and even lick you if they discover an interesting odor or taste on your skin.
However, don’t take this behavior as a sign of affection. Geckos are incapable of displaying attachment or any emotion that you would expect from a cat or a dog.
Categorizing geckos as cold-blooded reptiles comes with extra meanings in this sense.