Mourning Gecko

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Gekkonidae | Lepidodactylus lugubris

English common names: Mourning Gecko, Maritime Gecko, Sad Gecko.

Spanish common names: Geco lúgubre, geco enlutado, salamanquesa lúgubre.

Recognition: ♀♀ 11 cm. The Mourning Gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris) is the only gecko in Ecuador having expanded digital disks, basal webbing between digits, and no enlarged scales on the body and tail. Juveniles of the Common House-Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus) and the Tropical House-Gecko (H. mabouia) are similar, but have a series of pointed tubercles on the tail.

Natural history: Extremely common in human-modified areas. Lepidodactylus lugubris is a mostly nocturnal,1,2 occasionally diurnal3 gecko most commonly found on walls and ceilings4 close to electric lights,5 but also on light posts, palm trees, shrubs, bushes, and on the ground.4,6 Throughout its range, this gecko occurs in or around human-modified environments7 in a variety of lowland habitats, from deserts and rainforests, to plantations. During daytime, individuals of L. lugubris hide within crevices, among dead leaves, under bark, or behind almost any object hung from a vertical surface.5,8 Mourning Geckos are opportunistic predators. They feed mainly on insects that are attracted to artificial light sources,5,9 as well as on spiders, amphipods, pill bugs, nectar, ripe fruit, jam, sugar, sweetened drinks, milk, and even their own eggs.1012

Mourning Geckos are gregarious.5 They communicate by using sounds13 and bobbing the head.14 Lepidodactylus lugubris is parthenogenetic,1517 an all-female species that reproduces in the absence of males. However, there is female-female copulation,15 a behavior that stimulates both females to produce eggs. Females produce clutches of two1819 seawater-resistant20 adhesive5 eggs throughout the year.21 These are deposited in communal nesting sites such as in crevices, holes, thatch of roofs, leaf axils, or under logs, lumber, bark, rocks, palm fronds, and leaves.5,22 Eggs hatch in 65–103 days.19 Females occasionally produce male offspring, but these males are infertile.14

When threatened, individuals of Lepidodactylus lugubris flee into crevices or under surface objects. If captured, they easily shed the tail. Across their geographic range, Mourning Geckos are preyed upon by birds, mongooses, American Bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus), Santa Cruz Lava-Lizards (Microlophus indefatigabilis), Common House-Geckos (Hemidactylus frenatus), snakes, praying mantids, and spiders.5,2325 They are also parasitized by a variety of worms.26


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Conservation: Least Concern. We consider Lepidodactylus lugubris to be in this category following IUCN criteria27 because the species thrives in human-modified environments,7 is increasing in population size, and is invading new areas throughout the world with the aid of commercial ships and cargo.28

Distribution: Cosmopolitan. Mourning Geckos are native to Southeast Asia, but they have been introduced into the Americas, Australia, and a number of tropical islands across the globe. In Ecuador, the species has become naturalized across lowland areas, including the Galápagos Islands.

Distribution of Lepidodactylus lugubris in Ecuador Distribution of Lepidodactylus lugubris in Galápagos

Etymology: The generic name Lepidodactylus, which comes from the Greek words lepis (meaning “scale”)29 and daktylos (meaning “finger”),29 probably refers to the rows of scaly plates on the underside of the digits of this gecko. The specific epithet lugubris is a Latin word meaning “mournful”29 and probably refers to the unusual fact that only females were known at the time the species was described.30 Perhaps the authors naively assumed that females were mourning their "missing" males.

See it in the wild: Individuals of Lepidodactylus lugubris can be seen year-round with ~100% certainty on and around buildings throughout its area of distribution. The best time to look for this species is just after sunset.

Authors: Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador. and Juan M GuayasaminbAffiliation: Laboratorio de Biología Evolutiva, Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), Quito, Ecuador.,cAffiliation: Galapagos Science Center, Galápagos, Ecuador.,dAffiliation: Centro de Investigación de la Biodiversidad y Cambio Climático, Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica, Quito, Ecuador.

Academic reviewers: Kenneth Petren.

Photographers: Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A, Guayasamin JM (2020) Lepidodactylus lugubris. In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J, Guayasamin JM (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: www.tropicalherping.com

Philadelphia Zoo logoThis species account of the Mourning Gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris) is available for free online thanks to the support of Philadelphia Zoo.

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Literature cited:

  1. Savage JM (2002) The amphibians and reptiles of Costa Rica, a herpetofauna between two continents, between two seas. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 934 pp.
  2. Nafus MG (2012) Lepidodactylus lugubris. Foraging movement. Herpetological Review 43: 135.
  3. Perry G, Ritter M (1999) Lepidodactylus lugubris (mourning gecko). Nectivory and daytime activity. Herpetological Review 30: 166–167.
  4. Malkmus R, Manthey U, Vogel G, Hoffmann P, Kosuch J (2002) Amphibians and reptiles of Mount Kinabalu (North Borneo). Gantner Verlag, Ruggell, 424 pp.
  5. Oliver JA, Shaw CE (1953) The amphibians and reptiles of the Hawaiian Islands. Zoologica 38: 65–95.
  6. Torres-Carvajal O, Tapia W (2011) First record of the common house gecko Hemidactylus frenatus Schlegel, 1836 and distribution extension of Phyllodactylus reissii Peters, 1862 in the Galápagos. Check List 7: 470–472.
  7. Short KH, Petren K (2008) Boldness underlies foraging success of invasive Lepidodactylus lugubris geckos in the human landscape. Animal Behaviour 76: 429–437.
  8. Brown WC, Parker F (1977) Lizards of the genus Lepidodactylus (Gekkonidae) from the Indo-Australian Archipelago and the islands of the Pacific, with description of new species. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences 41: 253–260.
  9. Castro-Herrera F, Valencia A, Villaquirán D (2012) Diversidad de anfibios y reptiles del Parque Nacional Natural Isla Gorgona. Universidad del Valle, Cali, 112 pp.
  10. Hanley KA, Bolger DT, Case TJ (1994) Comparative ecology of sexual and asexual gecko species (Lepidodactylus) in French Polynesia. Evolutionary Ecology 8: 438–454.
  11. Briggs AA, Young HS, McCauley DJ, Hathaway SA, Dirzo R, Fisher RN (2012) Effects of spatial subsidies and habitat structure on the foraging ecology and size of geckos. PLoS ONE 7: e41364.
  12. Miller MJ (1979) Oviphagia in the mourning gecko, Lepidodactylus lugubris. Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society 14: 117–118.
  13. Bosch RA, Páez RB (2017) First record from Cuba of the introduced mourning gecko, Lepidodactylus lugubris (Duméril and Bibron, 1836). BioInvasions Records 3: 297–300.
  14. Brown SG, Murphy-Walker S (1996) Behavioral interactions between a rare male phenotype and female unisexual Lepidodactylus lugubris. Journal of Herpetology 6: 69–73.
  15. McCoid MJ, Hensley RA (1991) Pseudocopulation in Lepidodactylus lugubris. Herpetological Review 22: 8–9.
  16. Cuellar O, Kluge AG (1972) Natural parthenogenesis in the gekkonid lizard Lepidodactylus lugubris. Journal of Genetics 61: 14–26.
  17. Orozco-Cardona M (1996) Ciclo reproductivo de Lepidodactylus lugubris (Sauria Gekkonidae). BSc Thesis, Cali, Universidad del Valle.
  18. Brown SG, Sakai TJY (2010) Social experience and egg development in the parthenogenic gecko, Lepidodactylus lugubris. Ethology 79: 317–323.
  19. Griffing AH, Sanger TJ, Matamoros IC, Nielsen SV, Gamble T (2018) Protocols for husbandry and embryo collection of a parthenogenetic gecko, Lepidodactylus lugubris (Squamata: Gekkonidae). Herpetological Review 49: 230–235.
  20. Brown SG, Duffy PK (1992) The effects of egg-laying site, temperature, and salt-water on incubation time and hatching success in the gecko Lepidodactylus lugubris. Journal of Herpetology 26: 510–513.
  21. Ota H (1994) Female reproductive cycles in the northernmost populations of the two gekkonid lizards, Hemidactylus frenatus and Lepidodactylus lugubris. Ecological Research 9: 121–130.
  22. Manthey U, Grossmann W (1997) Amphibien und Reptilien Südostasiens. Natur und Tier-Verlag, Münster, 512 pp.
  23. McCoid MJ, Hensley RA (1993) Shifts in activity patterns in lizards. Herpetological Review 24: 87–88.
  24. Darevsky IS (1964) Two new species of gekkonid lizards from the Komodo Island in the Lesser Sundas Archipelago. Zoologischer Anzeiger 173: 169–174.
  25. Tropical Herping field notes.
  26. Goldberg SR, Bursey CR, Cheam H (1998) Gastrointestinal helminths of fur gekkonid lizards, Gehyra mutilata, Gehyra oceanica, Hemidactylus frenatus and Lepidodactylus lugubris from the Mariana Islands, Micronesia. The Journal of Parasitology 84: 1295–1298.
  27. IUCN (2001) IUCN Red List categories and criteria: Version 3.1. IUCN Species Survival Commission, Gland and Cambridge, 30 pp.
  28. Olmedo J, Cayot L (1994) Introduced geckos in the towns of Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal and Isabela. Noticias de Galápagos 53: 7–12.
  29. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington, 882 pp.
  30. Duméril AMC, Bibron B (1836) Erpétologie générale, ou, Histoire naturelle complète des reptiles. Encyclopédique Roret, Paris, 430 pp.