CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Mediterranean Gecko - Hemidactylus turcicus

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



Mediterranean House Gecko California Range Map

Red: Areas where this species has been reported and is most likely established. They are most likely found in more locations also.

Map with California County Names


You can contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Invasive Species Program for information about what you should do with geckos found in your home:


"For questions about sightings of a known or potentially invasive animal (non-insect) or marine plant, please contact the Invasive Species Program at (866) 440-9530 or send an email to invasives@wildlife.ca.gov."


List of Non-Native Reptiles and Amphibians
Established in California


Hear a Mediterranean
Gecko Chirp:


speaker




observation link






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

Mediterranean House Gecko
Sub adult, Ocotillo, Imperial County
Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko
Adult, Azusa, Los Angeles County Sub adult, Ocotillo, Imperial County Adult, Ocotillo, Imperial County.
(The tail has no markings on it because it has been broken off and re-grown.)
Adult on ceiling, Ocotillo,
Imperial County
Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko
Adult, San Diego, San Diego County
© Dan Boyd
Adult, Palm Springs,
Riverside County
© 2005 William Flaxington
Adult, Palm Springs,
Riverside County
© 2003 Richard Seaman
Adult, Lincoln Heights Los Angeles, Los Angeles County 
© Austin Stricklin
Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko
Adult, Fresno County © Patrick Briggs Adult, Sacramento, Sacramento County, found active in mid winter.
© Leslie Bates
Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko
Sub-adult, Modesto, Stanislaus County © George M. Ramirez
Adult, San Marcos, San Diego County
© Nathan Smith
Adult, Needles, San Bernardino County © Harold Wagstaff Sub-adult, Bakersfield, Kern County
© Saul N
Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko
Adult, Seeley, Imperial County
© Jeff Nordland
Adult, Seeley, Imperial County
© Jeff Nordland
Adult, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County © Christina Mertes Adult, Oroville, Butte County, one of several found © Mike Padula
Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko
Adult, Pomona, Los Angeles County
© Robert Cothran
Adult, Lucerne Valley, San Bernardino County © Anonymous Adult missing tail and showing its dark phase camouflage abilities. Bakersfield, Kern County
© Kwynn Anderson
A Mediterranean Gecko shows its
tongue when it licks its lips after eating a flying insect.
Great Basin Collared Lizard Great Basin Collared Lizard Great Basin Collared Lizard  
These hatched and unhatched eggs were found between paper bags full of powdered chalk in early April in Fresno County. They were in a storage shed where Mediterranean Geckos have been seen for 7 or 8 years. An adult gecko was photographed nearby (above right.) Because April is early for other reptile eggs to hatch, and the location is not suitable for eggs of amphibians or slugs, this could be a communal deposit of Mediterranean Gecko eggs, but that is not certain. Females tend to lay one or two eggs each in communal clutches. © Timothy Walsh Mediterranean Geckos have soft skin with prominent knob-like tubercles.  
       
Juveniles
Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko
Juvenile, Davis, Yolo County
© Rachel DuBose
Juvenile, Orange County
© Larry Leon
Tiny juvenile, North Highlands,
Sacramento County © Angel Patton
Juvenile, Whittier, Los Angeles County © K. Chaplin
Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko
Juvenile, Vacaville, Solano County © Jake Finnegan Juvenile, Barstow, San Bernardino County © Ben Rucker Juvenile, Serra Mesa neighborhood of San Diego, San Diego County Juvenile, Contra Costa County
© Greg Howard
Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko
Juvenile, Chatsworth, Los Angeles County © John McManus Juvenile, Citrus Heights,
Sacramento County © Ben Barker
An adult Mediterranean Gecko would probably eat a spider, but this juvenile gecko was found in Orange County killed by another alien species - a brown widow spider. © Larry Bowman This Riverside County juvenile about 2 and a half inches long, was photographed with a 365nm UV light.
© Jeremiah Easter
       
Mediterranean Geckos From Outside California
Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko  
Adult, Dark Phase  
Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko  
Adult, Light Phase  
The six pictures directly above all show the same large adult gecko found in Travis County, Texas.
The gecko was dark in color when I found it underneath a large limestone rock that was covered with ice after an ice storm.
I brought the gecko inside and took the pictures in its dark phase shown above in the top row.
It warmed up after a few minutes and lightened in color and I took the pictures in the bottom row.
 
   
Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko
  Sub-adult, Travis Co., Texas   Adult with re-generated tail,
Travis County, Texas
Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko
Juvenile, Travis Co., Texas Adult, Travis County, Texas Juvenile, Travis Co., Texas
Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko
Adult, Yuma, Yuma County, Arizona

Adult, on outdoor motel lamp in Tucson, Pima County, Arizona. Juvenile found in motel bathroom, Cochise County, Arizona
Sub-adult, Travis County, Texas
       
Mediterranean Geckos have specialized toe pads that let them climb and hang on to almost any surface.
Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko
Top of toes showing pads underneath Underside of toes,
showing white toe pads
Toes of adult, © Leslie Bates Underside of adult,
showing white pads under toes
Mediterranean House Gecko      
Juvenile with only three feet
climbing on a glass window
     
       
Habitat
The habitat pictures below were added in the early 2000s when this gecko was mostly found in a few arid and semi-arid areas in southern California.
Since then it has spread throughout cities and towns in much of the state.
Mediterranean House Gecko Habitat Mediterranean House Gecko Habitat Mediterranean House Gecko Habitat Mediterranean House Gecko Habitat
Mediterranean Geckos have been found in the desert city of
Ocotillo, Imperial County, home of the Lazy Lizard Saloon.
Mediterranean Geckos have been found in several locations in the Coachella Valley in Riverside County, including Desert Hot Springs, Rancho Mirage, and Palm Springs. Here you can see several geckos gathered under an outdoor light on the wall of a Palm Springs motel.
© 2005 William Flaxington
These geckos have been spreading up the Central Valley along the Highway 99 corridor in cities including Bakersfield, Fresno, Kingsburg, Chowchilla, and many more.

Mediterranean House Gecko Habitat Mediterranean House Gecko Habitat    
Mediterranean Geckos have been found in several locations in the Imperial Valley, Imperial County, including Imperial, El Centro and Calexico.    
     
Short Videos
Mediterranean House Gecko Mediterranean House Gecko    
And adult and a juvenile Mediterranean Gecko run around at night on a white exterior wall in Imperial County An adult Mediterranean Gecko licks its lips on an exterior wall in Yuma, Arizona.    
     
Description
 
Size
1 3/4 - 2 3/8 inches long from snout to vent (4.4 - 6 cm) 4 - 5 inches long including tail (10.2 - 12.7 cm)
Appearance
A small, slightly flattened gecko with conspicuous large bumpy tubercles on the skin.
Eyes
are large with no lids and vertical pupils.
The toes have broad pads with claws extending beyond them and no webbing.
The tail is round and ringed with dark and light bands. It will grow back if it is broken off.
Color and Pattern
A pale translucent pinkish white color in the light phase, and gray to dark brown in the dark phase,
with dark blotching and spotting sometimes forming indistinct bands.
Young
Juveniles have more prominent light and dark tail banding than adults.
Voice
Males make mouselike squeaking sounds during fights and probably to claim their territory. Males also make a series of clicking sounds to advertise their presence to females during the breeding season.

Comparison with the similar Indo-Pacific Gecko - Hemidactylus garnotii
The best way to differentiate these two species is the skin: the Indo-Pacific Gecko has smooth skin, while the Mediterranean Gecko has conspicuous large bumpy tubercles on the skin. The Indo-Pacific Gecko also has a yellow belly while that of the Mediterranean gecko is pale but not yellow.

Behavior and Life History
Nocturnal and Crepuscular.
Often seen sitting motionless at night under lights on the exterior walls of buildings where they are waiting to feed on insects attracted to the light. Also seen on walls and ceilings stalking insects.
When approached too closely, they will run into a nearby shelter.
The tail can be broken off as a survival strategy to distract a predator and it will grow back.
More information about tail loss and regeneration.

Active all year long, but more active when temperatures are hot.
These geckos appear to prefer hot climates in regions with short, mild winters, although they are apparently established in places with cold winters including Baltimore and Oklahoma. (Locey & Stone 2006) They are definitely capable of surviving short periods of freezing temperatures - I witnessed a population of these geckos survive a severe ice storm with freezing temperatures lasting for several days in January 2006 in Austin Texas, including one large adult found surviving under a large rock that was completely covered with ice along with the ground around it.
Territoriality
Males are territorial and will defend good hunting areas.
Diet
A variety of small invertebrates.
Reproduction
Mates from March to July.
These geckos are sexually mature in a year or less.
Females lay 1 - 2 calcereous eggs in communal clutches 1 - 3 times per year from April to August.
When present, eggs can be seen under the translucent belly skin of females.

Habitat
Urbanized - often living in or near human dwellings. Often seen at night under lights on the exterior walls of buildings. In the daytime they have been found active inside buildings or sheltering under rocks, wood on the ground, planters, palm fronds, stacks of roofing tin and cardboard, in cracks between bricks, in holes in trees, underneath house shingles, inside outside wall lamps, and probably anywhere else they can hide.

Geographical Range
Native to the Mediterranean area, Africa, and the Middle East region.

Reported in the United States in 1955 in Brownsville Texas, (and 1910 in the Florida Keys) this gecko has spread rapidly, and is established in the United States in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia, and in a large part of eastern Mexico, including the Yucatan Peninsula. Most likely also introduced into Baja California. Introduced into Panama, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and possibly Belize.

California Locations Where Mediterranean Geckos Have Been Found
The earliest museum record documenting Mediterranean Geckos in California that I know about is from Ocotillo in Imperial County in 1988. It's possible they were established before then either in Ocotillo or elsewhere.

Mediterranean Geckos may not be established in all of the areas listed shown on my map but it's likely they are. A sighting of just a single gecko might represent a member of a population that was temporarily established but did not survive one or more winters or other environmental stress, but it is most likely that there is still a population of geckos at every location shown. There were only a few locations shown here in 2010, but the number of locations on the map has grown rapidly and continues to do so, even though it is most likely incomplete.

To see a different map of sightings of this species, look at the iNaturalist map.

If you find a Mediterranean Gecko in a place in California that is not shown on the map above, email me.

Full Species Range Map

Full Species Range Map
Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
Recently introduced into California, this successful stowaway is expanding its range, although low winter temperatures in some areas will probably restrain them to the warmer parts of the state.

Unlike some alien species in the state, introduced Mediterranean Geckos are not the result of released or escaped pets. The most likely reason for the rapid spread of this gecko is the accidental transport of geckos and their eggs hiding in lumber and other commercial products on trucks, cars, trains, etc., from areas where the geckos have become established, originally the Southeastern part of the US, but now also Southern California.

One gravid gecko, or one egg mass could be responsible for the establishment of this gecko species in a new location.
For example, I was asked to identify a Mediterranean Gecko that was found in Manitoba, Canada in a shipment of pipes from Texas.
People have also told me that they found geckos at their new houses in California shortly after shipping their belongings from Texas and from Florida.

I have not seen any studies that describe any possible threat to native species by this invasive gecko.

Taxonomy
Family Gekkonidae Geckos Gray, 1825
Genus Hemidactylus House Geckos Gray, 1825
Species

turcicus Mediterranean Gecko (Linnaeus, 1758)
Original Description
Linnaeus 1758

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Hemidactylus - half fingered (hemi = half, daktylos = toe or finger)
turcicus - Latin, meaning "from Turkey"

Alternate Names
Turkish Gecko
Mediterranean House Gecko

Related or Similar California Lizards
Indo-Pacific Gecko - Hemidactylus garnotii (Fox Gecko, Garnot's House Gecko)
Tropical House Gecko - Hemidactylus mabouia (Woodslave)
Common House Gecko - Hemidactylus frenatus
Flat-tailed House Gecko - Hemidactylus platyurus
Moorish Gecko - Tarentola mauritanica  
Ringed Wall Gecko - Tarentola annularis (White-spotted Wall Gecko)
Keeled Rock Gecko - Cyrtopodion scabrum (Bow-footed Gecko, Keeled Gecko, Rough-tailed Gecko)
Peninsular Leaf-toed Gecko - Phyllodactylus nocticolus

More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

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.

Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.

Flaxington, William C. Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Field Observations, Distribution, and Natural History. Fieldnotes Press, Anaheim, California, 2021.

Samuel M. McGinnis and Robert C. Stebbins. Peterson Field Guide to Western Reptiles & Amphibians. 4th Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2018.

Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Robert Powell, Roger Conant, and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.

Conant, Roger, and Joseph T. Collins. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians Eastern and Central North America. Third Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.

Robert Powell, Roger Conant, and Joseph T. Collins. Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.

Garrett, Judith M. and David G. Barker. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Texas. Gulf Publishing Company, Houston Texas, 1987.

Life History of a Successful Colonizer: The Mediterranean Gecko, Hemidactylus turcicus, in Southern Texas
Kyle W. Selcer
Copeia, Vol. 1986, No. 4 (Dec. 23, 1986), pp. 956-962
doi:10.2307/1445292

Factors Affecting Range Expansion in the Introduced Mediterranean Gecko, Hemidactylus turcicus
KENNETH J. LOCEY AND PAUL A. STONE
Journal of Herpetology, Vol. 40, No. 4, pp. 526–530, 2006
Copyright 2006 Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles

Conservation Status

The following conservation status listings for this animal are taken from the July 2022 State of California "Special Animals List" and the July 2022 "State and Federally Listed Endangered and Threatened Animals of California" list, both of which are produced by multiple agencies and can be downloaded here: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Data/CNDDB/Plants-and-Animals.
You can check this link to see if there are more current lists.

A detailed explanation of the meaning of the status listing symbols can be found on the
Special Animals List. For quick reference, I have copied some of them on my Special Status Information page.

If no status is listed here, the animal is not included on either list. This most likely indicates that there are no serious conservation concerns for the animal. To find out more about an animal's status you can go to the NatureServe and IUCN websites to check their rankings.

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

Organization Status Listing  Notes
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
IUCN

 

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