A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California

Moorish Gecko - Tarentola mauritanica

(Linnaeus, 1758)
Click on a picture for a larger view

Reported locations in California: Red

If you see any lizard that looks like this living in
the wild anywhere in California please email me at and send a picture if you can.

observation link

This is an alien species that has been introduced into California. It is not a native species.

Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko
Adult, Hanford, Kings County
© Monte Lininger
Adult, San Diego County © Karen Holman
Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko
Adult, Kings County
© Patrick Briggs
Adult, Hanford, Kings County © Victor Calderon
Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko
Adult, San Diego, with a completely re-generated tail. © Teal Michaelis Adult, San Diego County © Tim Valentine
Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko
Adult with regenerated tail, San Diego County © Tim Valentine Juvenile, San Diego County
© Tim Valentine
Moorish Wall Geckos have small granular scales with intermittent large tubercles.
Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko
Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko
The above photos are all views of a single adult gecko found on a building in Hanford, Kings County.
All © Patrick Briggs
Adults grow up to 6 inches long (15 cm) including the tail.
Geckos are usually around 3.2 inches long (8 cm) from snout to vent.

A robust-bodied lizard with a flat head, prominent tubercles on the upper surfaces, large bulging eyes with vertical pupils and no eyelids, and elongated toe pads.
The tail is easily detached, but it will regenerate. Regenerated tails do not grow tubercles.
Color and Pattern
Color is brownish, grey or sandy with dark and light markings.
Color changes from dark during daytime to light phase at night.
The underside is white to yellow.
Young geckos have dark bands.

Life History and Behavior

Nocturnal, but also known to bask in the sun during cooler parts of the year.
Often seen foraging for food under artificial light sources.
A good climber.
Males defending territories make squeaking calls.
The tail is easily detached and when detached will wriggle for a few minutes which may distract a potential predator from the gecko long enough for it to escape.
Diet and Feeding
Eats small invertebrates and possibly small vertebrates.
Often seen foraging for food under artificial light sources.
In its native habitat, 2 - 3 clutches of 1 or 2 eggs are laid around April and June.
Moorish Wall Geckos take several years to reach sexual maturity.

Geographical Range
The species is native to the coastal Mediterranean area of Europe and Africa.
It has allso established in Florida, California, Argentina, and Uruguay.

The first published report of this lizard being established in California was in 1998:
" This lizard has been introduced and established in San Diego County, California."
(Mahrdt, 1998, Herpetol. Rev. 29: 52)

I have received a report that a population of these geckos once inhabited a building in Hanford, King County, and could still be there. Photos of geckos from this location are shown above. I have received other reports of geckos from Hanford also, and some pictures are shown above.

These are some locations where I know this species has been found in California.
(If you know of any others, please let me know.)

Kings County

Los Angeles County
San Pedro

San Diego County
El Cajon (Several locations in the city)
Near the University of San Diego (One individual was seen so there may not be an established population at this location.)

Full Species Range Map
Elevational Range
In its natural habitat this gecko is usually found at elevations under 1,300 ft. (400 m) but it can be found as high as 4,600 ft. (1,400 m.)

Found in its native habitat on stone walls, boulders, and piles of wood in warm, dry, lowland coastal areas. In Florida, found on outside walls and cinderblock fences.

Notes on Taxonomy

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
Family Gekkonidae Geckos Gray, 1825
Genus Tarentola Wall Geckos Gray, 1825

mauritanica Moorish Gecko (Linnaeus, 1758)
Original description
Linnaeus 1758

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Tarentola = Taranto (a city in Italy)
Mauritanica - Latin - "Mauritanian" - from Mauritania

Alternate Names
Moorish Wall Gecko
Common Wall Gecko
Crocodile Gecko
European Common Gecko
Maurita Naca Gecko

Related or Similar California Lizards
Hemidactylus turcicus - Mediterranean Gecko 
Tarentola annularis - Ringed Wall Gecko

More Information and References and Pictures
Natureserve Explorer



Gecko Web

Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M.  Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.

Bartlett, Richard D. & Patricia Bartlett. A Field Guide to Florida Reptiles and Amphibians. Gulf Publishing, 1999.

Arnold, E. Nicholas. Reptiles and Amphibians of Europe. Princeton University Press, 2002.

Conservation Status

The following status listings come from the Special Animals List and the Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

There are no significant conservation concerns for this non-native animal in California.

Status Listing
NatureServe Global Ranking
NatureServe State Ranking
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None


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