Middle Eastern rock gecko (Pristurus flavipunctatus)

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Middle Eastern rock gecko head detail

Top facts

  • The Middle Eastern rock gecko uses body postures and movements to communicate, giving it the alternative name of ‘semaphore gecko’.
  • The male Middle Eastern rock gecko has a crest on the underside of the tail, but the female does not.
  • The Middle Eastern rock gecko often lives in Acacia trees, using the spiky branches for shelter and protection.
  • Over 80% of the Middle Eastern rock gecko’s diet is made up of ants.
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Middle Eastern rock gecko fact file

Middle Eastern rock gecko description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyGekkonidae
GenusPristurus (1)

The Middle Eastern rock gecko (Pristurus flavipunctatus) is a tiny gecko with a grey body and up to eight dark, ‘V’ shaped markings along the lower back. Dark brown spots and bands can be seen along the sides of the body, and a dark stripe runs along each side of the head from the mouth to behind the ears. The underside of the Middle Eastern rock gecko is a plain, pale grey with no patterning. The eyes of this species are large and golden brown (2).

The male and female Middle Eastern rock gecko are similar in appearance, but the male has much clearer patterning and bolder colouration (2). The male Middle Eastern rock gecko also has an unusual crest on the underside of the tail, which is not found in the female. In addition, the male’s abdomen is very long and narrow, whereas in the female it is cylindrical in shape. Juvenile Middle Eastern rock geckos are similar in appearance to the adult female, with a bold stripe along the lower back (2).

Whereas many other geckos use calls to communicate (3), members of the genus Pristurus use body postures and movements of their long, narrow tail, giving them the name ‘semaphore geckos’ (4) (5) (6).

Also known as
Rüppell’s semaphore gecko.
Synonyms
Gymnodactylus flavipunctatus, Pristurus percristatus.
Size
Snout-vent length: up to 3.8 cm (2)
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Middle Eastern rock gecko biology

Like other Pristurus species, the Middle Eastern rock gecko is likely to be an ambush predator that hunts small invertebrates (3) (7). This species feeds mainly on ants, which are reported to constitute over 80 percent of its diet (7). Unusually among geckos, Pristurus species are mainly active during the day (4) (6) (7).

Mating in the Middle Eastern rock gecko occurs between June and July. A single egg is laid, either in the forks of branches or in deep holes in the ground, usually under sheltered rocks or vegetation or hidden beneath leaf litter (7). The eggs of this species are more or less spherical (6).

As in related species, the Middle Eastern rock gecko is likely to communicate using a series of specific tail movements to visually signal to other individuals (2) (5) (6). In other Pristurus species, the tail can be shaken horizontally or vertically or curled over the back (4) (5). The Middle Eastern rock gecko also communicates via a series of head nods. This species is very territorial and will aggressively defend an area from invading individuals (2).

When pursued by a predator, the Middle Eastern rock gecko is able to shed its tail, providing the predator with a distraction lasting long enough for the gecko to escape (5). The tail can then be entirely regenerated (7).

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Middle Eastern rock gecko range

The Middle Eastern rock gecko has a large range covering parts of Somalia, east Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan (1).

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Middle Eastern rock gecko habitat

An arboreal species (2) (7), the Middle Eastern rock gecko lives among a variety of plants including Acacia trees, using the spiky branches for shelter and protection from birds and other predators (7).

Vegetation in the regions it inhabits is often sparse, and many individuals have been known to live together on a single isolated tree or shrub (2).

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Middle Eastern rock gecko status

The Middle Eastern rock gecko has yet to be classified by the IUCN.

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Middle Eastern rock gecko threats

The Middle Eastern rock gecko is not currently believed to be threatened, but its populations are quite uncommon and have clustered distributions (2), which could potentially make it more vulnerable to any future threats.

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Middle Eastern rock gecko conservation

In the Mediterranean region, the Middle Eastern rock gecko has been classified as Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN Red List criteria (8). There are no specific conservation measures currently known to be in place for this small reptile.

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Find out more

Find out more about the Middle Eastern rock gecko and other reptiles:

More information on reptile conservation:

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Authentication

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

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Arboreal
An animal which lives or spends a large amount of time in trees.
Genus
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Invertebrates
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
Territorial
Describes an animal, a pair of animals or a colony that occupies and defends an area.
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References

  1. The Reptile Database (February, 2011)
    http://reptile-database.reptarium.cz/search.php
  2. Baha El Din, S. (2006) A Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Egypt. American University in Cairo Press, Cairo.
  3. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Feulner, G.R.(2004) Tail signalling in the semaphore gecko Pristurus celerrimus. Tribulus, 14(1): 18-22. Available at:
    http://www.enhg.org/trib/V14N1/TribulusV14N1Searchable.pdf
  5. Arnold, E.N. (1990) Why do morphological phylogenies vary in quality? An investigation based on the comparative history of lizard clades. Proceedings of the Royal Society B - Biological Sciences, 240: 135-172.
  6. Arnold, E.N.(2009) Relationships, evolution and biogeography of Semaphore geckos, Pristurus (Squamata, Sphaerodactylidae) based on morphology. Zootaxa, 2060: 1-21.
  7. Arnold, E.N.(1993) Historical changes in the ecology and behaviour of semaphore geckos (Pristurus, Gekkonidae) and their relatives. Journal of Zoology, 229(3): 353-384.
  8. Cox, N., Chanson, J. and Stuart, S. (2006) The Status and Distribution of Reptiles and Amphibians of the Mediterranean Basin. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Available at:
    http://data.iucn.org/dbtw-wpd/edocs/2006-027.pdf
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