Are Crested Geckos Smart? Facts & Figures
There is no doubt that crested geckos are smart, but this doesn’t say much in and of itself. The main reason is that intelligence isn’t a well-defined concept, as we currently view it as more of a category. There are multiple types of intelligence in humans alone, like emotional intelligence, social cognition, problem-solving, etc.
There is no simple test to determine a person’s overall intelligence. The famous IQ test only tests the individual’s ability to think fast, solve puzzle-like problems, and identify patterns faster. Having an IQ value above someone else doesn’t mean you’re more intelligent than them overall, but merely that you’re better at those tasks than they are.
It’s also worth noting that doing many IQ tests can help you understand how to solve those types of problems better. So, a person who’s done more IQ tests might score higher on the IQ scale than someone who hasn’t. This means that, in some sense, you can actually grow your IQ.
But we digress.
Crested Gecko Intelligence
Crested geckos are intelligent, but how intelligent, really? As it turns out, they’re more intelligent than we give them credit for. Overall, geckos show impressive presence in the following cognitive abilities:
- Problem-solving – Their most notorious ability relates to problem-solving. Crested geckos live in highly competitive and dangerous environments where they face threats and challenges that we, humans, are no longer subjected to. Geckos need problem-solving skills to avoid predators, find food, and ensure their comfort and safety. Captive-bred geckos showcase similar abilities, except they may be less visible. After all, they don’t need to use it as often.
- Curiosity – Curiosity is an intelligence-related treat. All animals are curious to some degree, including geckos. This curiosity allows animals to find out more about their habitat, ultimately allowing them to navigate their ecosystem more effectively. This is due to learning to differentiate between threats and harmless objects, animals, and occurrences that they may encounter during their lifetime.
- Learning and memory – The more advanced the brain is, the more effective the learning mechanism and the more precise and expansive the memory. As it turns out, geckos have excellent memories and can learn new things fairly fast. This ability allows them to memorize paths and map their habitat to remember safe versus unsafe routes and dwelling spots. They can also distinguish between predators and prey, based primarily on their learning capabilities.
- Social recognition – Geckos can distinguish between different members of their own species and can even recognize you. They don’t only rely on their visuals for that, but also their olfactory senses and hearing. So, your gecko will learn how you look, smell, and sound and can distinguish you from other humans.
- Decision-making – Crested geckos are constantly subjected to decision-making, more so in the wild. They have the ability to assess the problem and decide the best course of action on the fly. A gecko might choose to stay still in the presence of a predator, flee and change the spot fast, or jump to safety (usually to the ground) for a hasty escape.
- Communication – Crested geckos use a variety of sounds to communicate their intentions. They use chirping, clacking, barking, and other subtle variations to transmit states like aggression, excitement, fear, etc. With time, you can learn to differentiate between the different sounds so you can understand your gecko’s intentions and state of mind.
This being said, don’t expect your gecko to exhibit any type of affection. Despite its intelligence and learning capabilities, reptiles don’t have much social behavior and cannot exhibit affection. I’m afraid your love will be one-sided.
Crested Gecko Brain Size
Crested geckos have small brains relative to their body size, but this is not indicative of their intelligence. While larger brains are indicative of smarter animals, that’s not the only factor to consider. If that were the case, the blue whales would be the most intelligent animals on the planet.
In reality, there are two factors that influence the brain’s capacity more than its sheer size. These include:
- The brain-to-body size ratio – A huge brain in a huge body is no more performant than a small brain in a small body. While the brain may be massive, as in the case with whales, giraffes, elephants, and others, the animals’ bodies are also massive. So, most of the brain’s neuronal activity is occupied with handling body-specific requirements. There’s little area left for activities like learning, problem-solving, etc. Humans are the best example of an optimized brain-to-body ratio. We have huge brains compared to our body size, which is one factor that makes us so smart.
- Neuronal connections – It doesn’t really matter how large the brain is, but how many synapses and neurons it has. The more neurons and neural connections, the better the brain’s performance. Humans have the most neural connections, which is why our brains are the most performant in the animal kingdom.
Crested geckos have a decent brain-to-body size ratio, and the number of their neural connections sits between that of amphibians and birds. So, reptiles, in general, are smarter than amphibians but not as smart as birds.
Can Crested Geckos Learn Tricks?
No. Aside from the basic ‘learning of where to find food and water, geckos can’t do much else. That’s because, despite their intelligence, they’re considered feral animals. You can tame them, but you can’t really domesticate them the way you can domesticate dogs or cats.
How to Train a Crested Gecko?
The answer depends on how you define ‘train.’ If by training, you mean teaching geckos tricks and problem-solving, you’ll be wasting your time. Geckos aren’t meant for that. However, if you mean teaching the gecko to adapt to your presence and learn to navigate its habitat, you don’t have much work to do.
First, you should let your gecko do its thing and adapt to its surroundings. The gecko will soon learn the ins and outs of its enclosure and grow more comfortable exploring it. When it comes to accommodating the gecko with your presence, slow and steady wins the acquaintance race.
You should begin by feeding the gecko from your hand. This will allow the animal to associate your presence with food. Soon, the gecko will become comfortable in your presence as it gets to learn your scent, sound, and appearance. You can then pick up the gecko gently and hold it for a minute or so. Or until the reptile lets, you know that it wants to go back home.
Do Crested Geckos Have Emotions?
Yes, but only basic emotions like curiosity, fear, aggression, excitement, etc. These are simple emotions that are present in most animals. Don’t expect your gecko to show any affection anytime soon because they’re not built for that.
Do Crested Geckos Recognize People?
Yes, they do. Crested geckos recognize their handlers and, with time, will feel safer and more comfortable in their presence. They will even bond with you to a point, given that they associate you with food and safety. You can tell that your gecko recognizes you by the way it chirps when it sees you after a while.
Don’t get it mistaken, though, its chirping is most likely food-related excitement.
Can Crested Geckos Learn Their Name?
It’s unclear whether crested geckos recognize their name, but it’s most likely not. However, they will respond to their name to a point, but that’s not because they know that that’s their name, but because of the familiar sounds. If you use the gecko’s name every time before feeding, the gecko may pick up your voice inflections and learn to associate them with food.
In short, geckos are pretty smart animals but don’t exacerbate their abilities. Much of their intelligence is used to navigate their environment, recognize threats and prey, and interact with other geckos or animals around them, like you. They can perform some basic problem-solving, but you can’t teach them tricks or domesticate them to any meaningful degree.
Still, they remain cute and lovable creatures, even if they can’t return your love to the same degree.