Uroplatus (Uroplatus giganteus)

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyGekkonidae
GenusUroplatus (1)
SizeSnout-vent length: up to 20 cm (2) (3) (4)
Total length: up to 32.2 cm (2)
Top facts

Uroplatus giganteus is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (5).

First described as recently as 2006, Uroplatus giganteus is the largest gecko in Madagascar and the second largest gecko species in the world (2). Uroplatus giganteus belongs to the genus Uroplatus, a group known as leaf-tailed or flat-tailed geckos due to their broad, flat tails (6).

Uroplatus giganteus has a large, triangular head which is distinctly flattened, and its eyes are also large, with vertical pupils. This species’ limbs are slender, with a small amount of scaled webbing between the toes, and as in some other Uroplatus species there is a fringe of skin on the limbs, lower jaw and the sides of the neck, flanks and tail. In combination with some ability to change colour, this fringe helps the gecko to blend in with the background of its daytime resting places, and thus improves camouflage (2).

The colouration of Uroplatus giganteus is quite variable, ranging from brown to beige, grey or black, and is often reminiscent of the bark of trees. Most individuals have three large beige patches on the neck and body, which vary in size and shape. The underside of the body is whitish, sometimes with light brown marbling on the throat (2).

When Uroplatus giganteus is stressed, its colouration becomes much more contrasting, with the brown and greyish markings on the upperparts changing to yellow, and a black pattern developing over most of the head, back, tail and limbs (2).

Uroplatus giganteus was previously considered to be the same species as the common flat-tail gecko (Uroplatus fimbriatus), but can be distinguished by its distinctive white iris, its slightly larger size, and the presence of dark, chevron-shaped markings on the snout. Two black spots behind the rear chevron often create a pattern that resembles a ‘sad face’ symbol (2).

Uroplatus giganteus is found in Montagne d’Ambre, an isolated national park in northern Madagascar. This species is found in a region of around 650 to 850 metres in elevation (2) (4).

More than one locality of Uroplatus giganteus seems to exist, with a second population recorded in Marojejy. However, there is some debate over the taxonomy of this species, and this second location may represent an additional, as yet undescribed Uroplatus species (1) (2).

The area in Montagne d'Ambre National Park where Uroplatus giganteus is found is a low to mid-altitude rainforest habitat (1) (2).

Uroplatus giganteus is usually found on the branches of large trees at around two to four metres above the ground. During the day, individuals may sleep vertically on tree trunks, facing downwards (2).

All leaf-tailed geckos are nocturnal, only active and hunting at night (2) (4), and have secretive habits and highly effective camouflage (7). Like other leaf-tailed geckos, Uroplatus giganteus is likely to feed on a range of insects (4) (7) including crickets, moths and cockroaches (4).

Leaf-tailed geckos are promiscuous, meaning that both males and females may breed with numerous partners (4). In general, these species breed during the rainy season in Madagascar. Two eggs are usually laid per clutch, generally around four weeks after mating. The eggs are spherical and hard-shelled and are usually deposited on the forest floor in a hidden area (4) (7), before being covered loosely with substrate and sometimes leaves or plant debris (4). In captivity, Uroplatus species are able to lay several clutches per year (7).

Although Uroplatus giganteus seems to be present in relatively high numbers in Montagne d’Ambre (2), its population is severely fragmented and occupies a very small range (1) (2). Surveys over a number of years have shown that this species is likely to be present in only a small belt of forest, due to its absence at higher altitudes (2).

The main threat that Uroplatus giganteus faces is habitat destruction due to the logging of its lowland rainforest habitat for timber and clearance for agriculture (1) (7). This large gecko has also been illegally collected for the international pet trade in the past (2), although no commercial trade has been reported in recent years (2) (7).

All Malagasy leaf-tailed gecko species are listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which should mean that any international trade in Uroplatus giganteus is carefully controlled (5). Commercial collecting in nature reserves is prohibited in Madagascar, so specimens appearing in the pet trade in the past may have been illegally collected in the Montagne d’Ambre National Park (2). Fortunately, no commercial trade in Uroplatus giganteus has been reported since its listing on CITES (2) (7).

Uroplatus giganteus may potentially occur in up to four protected areas, and like other Uroplatus species it is legally protected within Madagascar, meaning that special authorisation is required to hunt this species or collect it from the wild (1).

Further research into the taxonomy, populations and geographical range of Uroplatus giganteus is needed to be able to conserve this unusual reptile more effectively (1) (2).

Find out more about Uroplatus giganteus and other leaf-tailed geckos:

More information on conservation in Madagascar:

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 (July, 2012)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Glaw, F., Kosuch, J., Henkel, F-W., Sound, P. and Böhme, W. (2006) Genetic and morphological variation of the leaf-tailed gecko Uroplatus fimbriatus from Madagascar, with description of a new giant species. Salamandra, 42: 129-144.
  3. Svatek, S. and van Duin, S. (2001) Leaf-tailed Geckos: The Genus Uroplatus. Brähmer Verlag, Germany.
  4. Glaw, F. and Vences, M. (2007) A Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Madagascar. Third Edition. Vences and Glaw, Köln, Germany.
  5. CITES (July, 2012)
    http://www.cites.org/
  6. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  7. UNEP-WCMC (2010) Review of Significant Trade: Species Selected by the CITES Animals Committee Following CoP14. CITES Secretariat, Geneva, Switzerland. Available at:
    http://www.unep-wcmc.org/medialibrary/2011/06/30/86c20ee6/E25-09-04A.pdf