Mud Snakes

Australian Reptiles for sale

australian barking geckoBy Marcia McGuiness

Let's imagine you are out in the early evening as the sun sets in the coastal area of southern Australia, strolling in scrubland with copses of eucalyptus trees, when you notice movement on the side of the trail on a rock surrounded by leaf debris. Slowly, you approach for a better look, getting the camera ready for a photo opportunity in case it turns out to be one of Australia’s wildlife treasures.

Upon careful and close observation, you find a small, maroon-brown lizard with large, doe-like eyes, feet with clawed toes that resemble those of a bird, an unusual pointed spear-shaped tail that is quite thick at the base, and a body covered with an array of raised white tubercles. As you point your camera to zoom in the lens, the little lizard suddenly turns in the blink of an eye and barks at you! Click! You got the image and preview it on your camera’s screen, wondering, "What is this”?

These geckos like to live in group colonies and hide in concealed dwellings kept on the warm side of their enclosure, so a cave-like shelter should be provided.

What’s In a Name?

The Australian barking gecko, also known as the Australian thick-tailed gecko, has undergone a roller coaster ride in taxonomy, having been reclassified 22 times since its discovery in 1823. Its scientific name, most commonly recognized as Underwoodisaurus milii (pronounced under-wood-ee-sore-us mill-ee-eye) was overturned to Nephrurus milii in 1990, back to U. milii in 2000, again to N. milii in 2007, and is currently referred to as Underwoodisaurus milii, once again since 2011. Still loosely considered a knob-tailed gecko by most breeders and keepers, one name that commonly identifies this unique gecko is simply "milii.” In spite of the numerous efforts to figure out how to appropriately label them and properly pronounce their scientific name, these spunky little geckos remain unaffected by identity crisis—they know exactly who they are!

Natural Habitat

australian barking geckoThere are two major species of Underwoodisaurus—the most common is the western form (U. milii) and the less common is the eastern form (U. husbandi). Populations of barking geckos are found in a range of habitats, including wet coastal low-woody vegetation; shrubby, sclerophyll (leather-leaf) forests; rocky arid scrubland; and hills in eucalyptus woodland in the southern coastal regions of eastern New South Wales, and throughout southern Australia to western Australia. Available range maps are varied, and it might be speculated that the two species may overlap at some point thereby creating natural intergrades.

It is not uncommon to find barking geckos in rocky crevices and under vegetation debris in aggregate groups consisting of several adults, including multiple males, along with juveniles. It is theorized that the benefit of huddling in colonies helps in maintaining suitable body temperatures in order to avoid extreme lows at nighttime and highs during daytime by slowing their body’s heating and cooling rates.

Keep in mind that barking geckos are avid climbers, so secure a cover for their enclosure.

Small and Attractive

Barking geckos are generally nocturnal, terrestrial lizards. Adults can reach a snout-to-vent length of approximately 4 inches, with a tail length of close to that, and adults can weigh an average of 14 to 20 grams, with some specimens weighing as much as 25 grams. The eastern form (U. hubandi) is typically slightly smaller. Their clawed feet are generally bird-like, with long slender digits, and their dark, banded tail is spear-head shaped, with a thick pad of stored fat at the base, tapering to a point at the end. The underside of the body is white, and the dorsal surface colors range from dark maroon through reddish-brown to pale fawn, and even golden orange, with a thicker white or yellow band around the neck. The body is covered in an array of patterns of small white or yellow raised tubercles. They have large, dark eyes with visor-like hoods. They are not truly dimorphic, as males and females tend to be of similar size. Preanal pores are absent in males, but their gender is obvious as adult males have disproportionately large hemipenes just under their vent at the underside of the tail base.

The overall body coloration of the Australian barking gecko might be classified in four distinct phases: dark, normal, light and ultra-light. Many breeders and keepers refer to only two color phases: either normal or light/hypo (hypomelanistic). The lighter phase geckos tend to "fire up” during the nighttime, exhibiting brilliant hues of golden orange. Attempts to determine if there is solid genetic basis for the variations in color phases have been ambiguous; some may consider the hypo-phase to be recessive, but not simple recessive. Pre-conclusive evidence leans toward incomplete dominance, with the normal phase being the default coloration. It is theorized that the darker-bodied morphs tend to come from the cooler, southern areas of Australia, where the landscape is more wooded, while the lighter-bodied specimens are found in the sandy, warmer northern regions of their ranges. Amelanistic (without melanin) specimens exist, but factual scientific reports on the presence or absence of melanin and tyrosinaise in the skin (T+ or T-) are elusive.

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Source: www.reptilesmagazine.com
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