Satanic leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus phantasticus)

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Satanic leaf-tailed gecko camouflaged against leaves
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Satanic leaf-tailed gecko fact file

Satanic leaf-tailed gecko description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyGekkonidae
GenusUroplatus (1)

The incredible satanic leaf-tailed gecko is a master of disguise, with a body that superbly mimics a dead leaf. Its twisted body, veined skin, and tail which looks remarkably like it has been nibbled at by insects or rotted by decay (3), all help this reptile blend into the foliage of its habitat. The satanic leaf-tailed gecko varies in colour, but is often mottled brown (4), and small black dots on the underside help distinguish it from similar species (5). Geckos possess no eyelids, just a transparent covering over their eyes, and so they use their long, mobile tongues to wipe away any dust or debris that gets into the eye (3). It has often been debated whether the satanic leaf-tailed gecko is the same species as U. ebenaui (the Nosy Bé flat-tailed gecko), but the satanic leaf-tailed gecko possesses more, and longer, spines on the head, body and trunk (6).

Synonyms
Uroplatus schneideri.
Size
Length: 10 - 15 cm (2)
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Satanic leaf-tailed gecko biology

A nocturnal reptile, with suitably large eyes, the satanic leaf-tailed gecko moves about its rainforest habitat at night feeding on insects (5). The adhesive scales under their fingers and toes and their strong curved claws enable them to move adeptly through the trees (5). The satanic leaf-tailed gecko is somewhat of an expert at avoiding predators, not only through their incredible mimicry, but through a number of behaviours. They can flatten their body against the substrate to reduce the body’s shadow, open their jaws wide to show a frightening, bright red mouth, and voluntarily shed their tail in order to trick a predator (5).

Like many reptiles, the satanic leaf-tailed gecko is oviparous, or egg-laying. Reproduction starts at the beginning of the rainy season when it lays clutches of two spherical eggs onto the ground under leaf litter, or in the dead leaves of plants (5).

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Satanic leaf-tailed gecko range

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Satanic leaf-tailed gecko habitat

The satanic leaf-tailed gecko is an arboreal, rainforest-dwelling species (5).

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Satanic leaf-tailed gecko status

Listed on Appendix II of CITES (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Satanic leaf-tailed gecko threats

Studies suggest that leaf-tailed geckos can only inhabit a very specific environment and are not tolerant of any degradation of its natural habitat. This makes the satanic leaf-tailed gecko very vulnerable to the impacts of habitat degradation and harvesting. Its fascinating appearance makes the satanic leaf-tailed gecko a popular pet and it is among the species most frequently traded. The apparent low population numbers in the wild suggests that, without careful monitoring and suitable controls, harvesting for the pet trade places this species at risk of local extinctions (5).

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Satanic leaf-tailed gecko conservation

The survival of the satanic leaf-tailed gecko is intrinsically linked to the continued existence of its Madagascan rainforest habitat. Protected areas are therefore essential, and at present the satanic leaf-tailed gecko is known to occur in at least three: Tsaratanana Strict Nature Reserve, Marojejy National Park and Anjanaharibe Special Reserve. However, illegal harvesting of leaf-tailed geckos is known to occur even within protected areas (5), and efforts to control this threatening activity are required if this extraordinary and unique reptile is to endure.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For further information on geckos see:

  • Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

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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
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Glossary

Arboreal
An animal which lives or spends a large amount of time in trees.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Mimicry
A phenomenon in which a species gains an advantage by closely resembling another species in appearance or behaviour.
Nocturnal
Active at night.
Oviparous
The method of reproduction in which eggs are laid and embryos develop outside of the mother’s body.
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References

  1. CITES (July, 2007)
    http://www.cites.org
  2. Uroplatus Geckos of Madagascar (December, 2007)
    http://www.gherp.com/gherp/pages/uroplatus.htm
  3. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Bauer, A. and Russell, A. (1989) A systematic review of the genus Uroplatus (Reptilia: Gekkonidae), with comments on its biology. Journal of Natural History, 23: 169 - 203.
  5. CITES. (2004) Consideration of Proposals for Amendment of Appendices I and II, Proposal 27. Thirteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties, The Hague. Available at:
    http://www.cites.org/eng/cop/13/prop/index.shtml
  6. Nussbaum, R.A. and Raxworthy, C.J. (1995) New Uroplatus Duméril (Reptilia: Squamata: Gekkonidae) of the ebenaui-Group from the Anosy Mountains of Southern Madagascar. Copeia, 1995(1): 118 - 124.
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Image credit

Satanic leaf-tailed gecko camouflaged against leaves  
Satanic leaf-tailed gecko camouflaged against leaves

© Nick Garbutt / naturepl.com

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