Mourning Gecko

Lepidodactylus lugubris

Mourning Gecko Care

A delightful small gecko ideal for bioactive systems, mourning geckos are predominantly brown in colour, with darker chevron markings all along their spine; these often reduce down to dark dots if the gecko changes colour. They can change from a nearly white background to a dark grey-brown almost as fast as a chameleon, with the change mediated by temperature, mood, and the need for camouflage. 

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One of the most startling things about these little geckos is that they are all female. They are a parthenogenetic species, one that reproduces without the need for a male. Girls lay eggs that hatch into more girls, making the entire species essentially clones. This breeding strategy is incredibly useful for colonising new areas; even if only one individual makes it to a new area – for instance, a new island on a raft of vegetation, or a shipping container – they can begin to breed straight away, and take advantage of a whole new ecosystem.

 

But why ‘mourning’? Well, the scientists that first discovered the parthenogenetic nature of the species speculated that the geckos were terribly sad because they lacked male company!

 

At an adult size of 10.5cm, this species is ideal for the smaller terrarium. As long as they have at least 45 x 45 x 45cm (18 x 18 x 18”) a small group will cohabit quite happily, although more space is always going to be better. Like all crepuscular lizards, they benefit greatly from having access to good quality UVB light as well as a bright white basking spot. Any enclosure for these animals must be secure. As babies they can squeeze out through practically any gap; Blu-tack is your friend in this case, we’ve found. You can use it to block up gaps around the top of glass terrariums, mould it around cables that may be feeding into the habitat, and best of all it is not inherently sticky, so any baby gecko brushing against it won’t find itself glued to the wall.

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As for food, they are generalists. Not only will they take any live food that’s small enough for them to eat – mini mealworms, small calci worms, micro crickets, fruit flies, buffalo worms – but they will also take the various meal replacement mixes that are sold for crested geckos. Variety is really good for them, so in a well established bio active habitat they will be able to vary their diet with springtails, baby woodlice, and anything else of a suitable size that happens to wander past. All food should be dusted with an appropriate calcium or multivitamin/multimineral supplement.

 

They are very tolerant of fluctuating temperatures, but a background ambient of normal warm room temperature – 22 to 26ºC (71 to 79ºF) – with a basking spot of 32ºC (89ºF) suits them very well. They will benefit from a night time temperature drop, although the temperature should not drop below 18ºC (64ºF).

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Breeding happens without any interference from the keeper. For such tiny geckos they lay surprisingly large eggs, usually in pairs; these are glued to the walls of the vivarium or some other safe place, and left to incubate naturally. Removing them, once they have dried and hardened, is impossible without damaging the egg. The babies are very, very small, but as long as the adults are well fed cannibalism doesn’t appear to be a problem. Curious and active but simple to look after, these little geckos are worth considering for a bioactive project – even if they are brown!

Animal Information

  • Scientific Name: Lepidodactylus lugubris 
  • Location: Pacific Basin, tropics generally
  • Habitat (wild): Forest, urban areas, farmland, coastal areas
  • Captive environment: Tropical forest vivarium, preferably more height than width
  • Preferred temperature range: daytime hot spot of 32ºC under the basking light, background ambient of 26ºC, cool end of 22ºC. Temperature can drop to 18ºC at night.
  • UVB Lighting: 5% or 7% UVB strip lamp
  • Substrate: Soil/coir based
  • Lifespan: 4 to 6 years