Common wall gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)

Also known as: Mauritanian gecko, Moorish gecko
Synonyms: Gecko fascicularis, Gecko muricatus, Gecko stellio, Lacerta mauritanica, Platydactylus facetanus, Platydactylus mauritanicus, Platydactylus muralis, Tarentola tuberculata
  
Spanish: Salamanquesa Común
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyPhyllodactylidae
GenusTarentola (1)
SizeSnout-vent length: 4.5 - 8.5 cm (2)
Male weight: c. 12 g (3)
Female weight: c. 9 g (3)
Top facts

The common wall gecko is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The common wall gecko (Tarentola mauritanica) is, as its name suggests, a very common gecko species (1). The largest gecko in Europe (3), it is a hardy, plump-looking lizard with a flattened head and body, and is perfectly adapted to a life of climbing (4). The common wall gecko has specialised microscopic suction pads on its toes, known as ‘setae’, which allow the gecko to climb flat surfaces including walls and ceilings (4) (5).

The common wall gecko looks spiky because it is covered in prominent bumps or tubercles. Generally, this species is a dull brownish, greyish or whitish colour, with a white or yellowish belly, and dark bands which are most conspicuous on its tail (4). However, the common wall gecko has the ability to change the colour on its back to better match its surroundings and make it less conspicuous to predators (2).

The eyes of the common wall gecko are usually greyish, and its pupils are vertical and slit-like. This species’ tail is roughly equal in length to its head and body. If the common wall gecko is attacked it can drop its tail, but when the tail grows back it lacks the dark bands and spiny appearance it had before (4).

There is not much difference between the appearance of the male and female common wall gecko, except that males are bigger and heavier and tend to have larger heads, although this difference can be difficult to detect when they are still young (3). Three subspecies of common wall gecko are sometimes recognised (6). However, the taxonomy of this species needs further investigation, as some populations may potentially represent separate species (1).

The common wall gecko is widespread across North Africa and the Mediterranean, ranging from the Iberian Peninsula, across southern France and coastal Italy to Greece, and from Egypt west to Morocco and northwest Western Sahara (1) (4) (6) (7). It also occurs on many Mediterranean islands, including Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily and Crete, and has been introduced to the Balearic Islands, Tenerife, Madeira and other islands (1) (4) (6).

As well as being widespread across its native range, the common wall gecko has also repeatedly been introduced across the Atlantic and has become established in parts of the United States, Argentina and Uruguay (1) (6).

The common wall gecko is naturally found in warm, dry coastal areas, although its range also extends inland in some areas (4), and it has been recorded at elevations as high as 2,300 metres in Spain (1). It occurs in a variety of habitats, including rocky cliffs, stone walls and rocky outcrops, and is occasionally found on trees (1) (4). An adaptable species, the common wall gecko also thrives in urban habitats, where it is found on walls, ruins and houses (1) (4) (8).

The common wall gecko is primarily nocturnal, but will bask during the day to regulate its body temperature (4). The common wall gecko preys upon arthropods, but its diet and hunting strategy change according to its habitat. In its natural habitat, this species eats mainly spiders, caterpillars and beetles, and it must actively forage as this prey is widely distributed. In contrast, in urban habitats, the common wall gecko sits and waits near lights where it typically catches flies and moths (9).

During the breeding season, the male common wall gecko is usually territorial and makes loud calls to attract females. The female common wall gecko makes calls during the brief mating (4). This species lays two or three clutches of one or two eggs at a time, sometimes communally, under stones or in cracks or hollow trees (1) (4). The eggs may take up to 14 weeks to hatch, and the common wall gecko hatchling is no longer than 2.5 centimetres in snout-vent length, or just 6 centimetres in length including the tail. In captivity, the common wall gecko may live for up to eight years (4).

The common wall gecko is an adaptable, successful species, particularly in urban habitats, and there are no major threats to its continued survival at present. However, this species is a popular pet, and exploitation for the pet trade can be an issue in localised populations. Habitat degradation has also been identified as a potential threat to this gecko in Egypt (1).

Due to its widespread distribution and high population numbers, the common wall gecko is not currently considered to be at risk of extinction. Much of this species’ range coincides with protected areas, and the common wall gecko itself is protected by international legislation in some regions (1).

Suggested conservation measures for the common wall gecko include further studies into its taxonomy, as well as investigations into the potential impacts of the pet trade on this small reptile (1).

Find out more about the common wall gecko and other reptiles:

More information on reptile conservation in Europe:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2013)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Vroonen, J., Vervust, B., Fulgione, D., Maselli, V. and Van Damme, R. (2012) Physiological colour change in the Moorish gecko, Tarentola mauritanica (Squamata: Gekkonidae): effects of background, light, and temperature. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 107(1): 182-191.
  3. Zuffi, M.A.L., Sacchi, R., Pupin, F. and Cencetti, T. (2011) Sexual size and shape dimorphism in the Moorish gecko (Tarentola mauritanica, Gekkota, Phyllodactylidae). North-Western Journal of Zoology, 7(2): 189-197.
  4. Arnold, N. and Ovenden, D. (2002) A Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Britain and Europe. HarperCollins Publishers, London.
  5. Stork, N.E. (1983) A comparison of the adhesive setae on the feet of lizards and arthropods. Journal of Natural History, 17(6): 829-835.
  6. The Reptile Database (May, 2013)
    http://reptile-database.reptarium.cz/search.php
  7. Gasc, J.P. et al. (1997) Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe. Collection Patrimoines Naturels, 29, Societas Europaea Herpetologica, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle and Service du Patrimoine Naturel, Paris. Available at:
    http://www.seh-herpetology.org/atlas/atlas.htm
  8. Luiselli, L. and Capizzi, D. (1999) Ecological distribution of the geckos Tarentola mauritanica and Hemidactylus turcicus in the urban area of Rome in relation to age of buildings and condition of the walls. Journal of Herpetology, 33(2): 316-319.
  9. Hódar, J.A., Pleguezuelos, J.M., Villafranca, C. and Fernández-Cardenete, J.R. (2006) Foraging mode of the Moorish gecko Tarentola mauritanica in an arid environment: Inferences from abiotic setting, prey availability and dietary composition. Journal of Arid Environments, 65: 83-93.