An expert climber, the variegated dtella can frequently be seen scuttling over tree trunks, walls and rock faces with great ease (2). While this species is mostly nocturnal (3) (4) (7) (10), the variegated dtella may sometimes be active during the day, sheltering beneath loose tree bark and moving swiftly between sunny and shaded sides to regulate its temperature without exposing itself to direct sunlight (5) (6).
Nocturnal reptiles such as the variegated dtella are exposed to lower and more uniform temperatures than diurnal species, and in northern New South Wales the variegated dtella only has a window of about three hours after dark in which to forage, before the temperature drops too low for it to function. However, if temperatures fall below about 18 degrees Celsius, the minimum operating temperature for this species, the variegated dtella will cease its foraging activities sooner (5). The variegated dtella eats a wide variety of invertebrates, including beetles, spiders and termites (3) (6), and is often seen foraging on the ground around the bases of trees or among rock outcrops close to shelter (4) (8).
The male variegated dtella occupies a territory which contains several shelters, into which females are invited (11). Female variegated dtellas are not thought to be able to reproduce until they are 32 to 36 months old (12), and research has shown the subspecies Gehyra variegata ogasawarisimae to be parthenogenetic, meaning that offspring can develop from unfertilised eggs and are usually genetically identical to the adult female (1) (9).
Female variegated dtellas only produce a single egg per clutch, although two clutches are usually laid per season (3) (5) (6). Interestingly, each egg comes from a different ovary, so that both are used in any given breeding season, and the egg takes up an astonishing 20 to 30 percent of the female’s weight (5). The round, hard-shelled variegated dtella eggs are usually laid under logs or bark, or within rock crevices and hollow tree limbs (2) (6), with nesting sites often being shared by several females (3) (6). In Victoria, the nesting season is reported to run from November to December (6).
Variegated dtellas are known to live for more than nine years in the wild (5).