The Web Footed Gecko Lizard
The web footed gecko lizard thrives in Africa's Namib Desert, despite energy sapping temperature extremes. It has webbed feet that act like snowshoes to support its weight on fine, dry sand, but also help it burrow. Learn more.
Despite its delicate features, the web footed gecko flourishes among the barren sand dunes of the Namib Desert, one of the world’s most inhospitable habitats. This slender reptile organizes its day in order to survive, it is active only during the cooler hours and spends the rest of the day lying low.
Southwest Africa’s Namib Desert extends right down to the skeleton coast of the Atlantic. Rain is virtually unknown on this arid terrain of bare rock and sand but during cold nights fog rolls in from the ocean and moisture condenses on the cooling dunes. The gecko depends on the moisture to survive. The gecko has no internal heat regulation system, so it burrows during the day and the coldest parts of the night.
The gecko is most active in the cool evening. It slips out of its burrow early, while the sand is still a little too hot for comfort, and hunts until it begins to feel the chill. It then burrows to warm up. The gecko may emerge after dawn to hunt but as it usually finds enough to eat at night, it tends to lie low during the day.
Although it has a developed sense of spell, the gecko hunts by sight. The gecko is unable to recognize potential prey unless it moves. Beetle, desert crickets or flies are safe as long as the keep still, but a moving insect is pounced upon and snapped up. With lightning speed, the gecko darts forward to grab and crush prey in wide, traplike jaws. In its cool burrow during the day, the gecko has few opportunities to hunt, although the outside temperature keeps it in confinement, it stays alert it is always ready to rush out, snatch a passing insect and drag it back into the shade to be eaten.
It is hot and dry, year round in the Namib Desert, so there is no preferred breeding season and the gecko breeds whenever it gets the chance. Males advertise for mates using startlingly loud calls. During mating, the male twists his tail under the female and introduces his sperm into her body, fertilizing the eggs within the female’s oviduct, the eggs are enclosed in shells to protect against moisture loss. The female carries two eggs at a time, although soft when laid, they soon harden. Once young have hatched, the female cares for them briefly before abandoning them.
The web footed gecko is rare, but probably always has been. It’s restricted to the Namib Desert, the very harshness of the habitat acts to the gecko’s advantage, since the area can not be exploited for farming.