Animal of the Month
August 2016

Name: Northern Leaf-tailed Gecko

Scientific Name: Saltuarius cornutus (Also classed as Phyllurus cornutus)

Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Scleroglossa
Infraorder: Gekkota
Family: Carphodactylidae
Subfamily: Diplodactylinae
Genus: Saltuarius
Number of Species: 1
Size: 6-8 ½ inches long
Weight: N/A

Characteristics: Long body with a wide leaf-shaped tail, four legs with five thin fingers triangle shaped head.
Color(s): Greyish brown
Behavior: Nocturnal, camouflages in its surroundings. Males are territorial.
Preferred Habitat: Tropical rainforests
Range: Mostly northeastern Australia, with a small range in eastern Australia.
Diet: Insects, spiders and cockroaches
Lifespan: N/A

Status: Least Concern


Some animals have learned to survive by making themselves look like their environment. For example, walking sticks looks like tree branches and sea dragons resemble seaweed. In Australia, a species of gecko has taken this method of stealth to great heights. The northern leaf-tailed gecko is a master of camouflage, living in the tropical rainforests of northern Australia, with a limited range in eastern Australia. These geckos are arboreal, meaning they spend most of their time in trees. Their clawed toes are excellent for gripping on thick bark, allowing them to maneuver or remain motionless on the trees.

Northern leaf-tailed geckos get their name from their leaf-shaped tails. Over time, these geckos adapted to hide from predators by blending in with the leaves and bark in their environment. Northern leaf-tailed geckos are so good at this trickery that unless they move, it is almost impossible to see them! Their tails also somewhat resemble their heads, thus further confusing predators. Northern leaf-tailed geckos are hunted by rats, snakes and owls. In the event that their tricks fail them, the geckos are capable of detaching their tails to ensure a quick escape.

Northern leaf-tailed geckos are nocturnal. They eat mostly invertebrates, especially spiders, cockroaches and other insects. Males are territorial in their arboreal habitats. Females will lay two eggs in the cracks of the bark. Sometimes females will share communal nests, with up to fourteen females sharing the same space! The young hatch after about eight-to-ten weeks and fend for themselves at birth.

Northern leaf-tailed geckos are classified as least concern by the IUCN. However, climate change, logging and forest fires threaten the forests of Queensland, and thus put these geckos and other animals at risk. The dangers are real, but there is hope that the damage to these forests can be halted and reversed.

To learn more about these geckos and the habitat they call home, check out these awesome websites:

IUCN Red List, Northern Leaf-Tailed Gecko Page—The IUCN’s profile on northern leaf-tailed geckos, their threats and how preserving their habitat will preserve them as well.

Australian Rainforest Conservation Society, Home Page—An organization that focuses on protecting the Gondwana Rainforests of the Australia World Heritage Area.

Rainforest Rescue, Home Page—Another organization dedicated to protecting, maintaining and replanting the rainforests of Australia.


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