Family : GEKKONIDAE
Species : Hemidactylus frenatus
Size (snout to vent) : males 6.1 cm, females 5.4 cm
Size (total length) : up to 13.4 cm
The Spiny-tailed Gecko, or
Common House Gecko, is the most common species of house gecko in the
Southeast Asia region. It is supremely adapted to urban settings, such that it is
abundant in all towns and cities.
This is mainly a lowland species, and is generally not seen
above 600 metres elevation. It is active both day and night on the walls of buildings,
around lighting fixtures to which flying insects, its main prey, have been
attracted. Adults are quite quarrelsome, and are ready to defend a prime
location near a lighting fixture from other geckos.
In natural habitats it appears to favour tree trunks in forest edge
settings, including highly disturbed habitats and mangrove. It may also be
spotted searching amongst leaf litter.
Its call is typically a repeated, dual syllabic,
chirping sound. In Malay this species, and other similar-looking geckos, is called
cicak, an onomatopoeic word which describes its unmistakable call.
In the field, this species is most easily identified by the whorls of short
spines around the original tail, although regrown tails lack this feature.
Other features include a tail which is roughly circular in cross-section,
short claws on all digits, and a vertical pupil. The head is somewhat
flattened, the body of moderate thickness and the limbs of moderate size.
The scales on top of the body are small and granular.
Its colour and patterning are highly variable and are often dependant on the
substrate on which it lives. Typically it is various shades of
brown or grey with darker speckles and other markings, which may include a dark stripe behind the eye
which may extend onto the flanks. Specimens living on white walls may be
This species is widespread in all countries of Southeast Asia. Outside the
region it has successfully colonized many other tropical
regions around the Indian Ocean, in parts of Africa and South America, and
the islands of the western Pacific Ocean.
Fig 1 : Grey, mottled specimen on the trunk of a palm tree at Singapore
Botanic Gardens. Note the whorls of short spines on the tail.
Fig 2 : Plain specimen from Pulau Sugi, Riau Archipelago, Indonesia.
Fig 3 : Mating pair inside an old bungalow in Singapore.
Fig 4 : Specimen from Pasir Ris, Singapore, revealing its subdigital
lamellae i.e. specially evolved structures beneath the digits which help in
gripping vertical surfaces. The red dots are groups of parasitic mites,
which this species often has between its fingers and toes.
References : H11, H12