A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California

Moorish Gecko - Tarentola mauritanica

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

Red: Areas where this non-native species
is apparently established

These are just the locations that I know about.
There are probably more. If you see a lizard that looks like this living in the wild anywhere in California that is not shown on the map above or the county list below - please contact me and send a picture if you can for verification.

Click on the map for a topographical view

Map with California County Names

List of Non-Native Reptiles and Amphibians
Established in California

observation link

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

Moorish Wall Gecko
Adult, Hanford, Kings County © Monte Lininger
Moorish Wall Gecko
Adult, San Diego County © Paul Pecoraro
Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko
Adult, San Diego, with a completely
re-generated tail. © Teal Michaelis
Adult, San Diego County © Karen Holman
Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko
Adult, San Diego County © Laura Ball Adult, Hanford, Kings County © Victor Calderon
Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko
Adult, San Diego County
© Kristen Bartelt
Adult, San Diego County © Tim Valentine
Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko
Two adults (one missing its tail), Santee, San Diego County Adult, Kings County
© Patrick Briggs
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
xGreat Basin Collared Lizard xGreat Basin Collared Lizard xGreat Basin Collared Lizard
Adult, Spring Valley, San Diego County.
The pictures on the left show the gecko hanging upsided down attached to a gass surface by its specialized toes.
xGreat Basin Collared Lizard xGreat Basin Collared Lizard Moorish Wall Gecko
This adult found in El Cajon has red mites on its body and between its toes.
© Laura A.
Adult with regenerated tail, San Diego County © Tim Valentine
Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko  
© John Nalevanko
This adult Moorish Gecko, a nocturnal species, is sometimes seen in the daytime in a yard in San Diego County where it basks in the sun next to an adult Western Fence Lizard, but only briefly - not as long as the fence lizard. Juvenile fence lizards have not been seen basking near the larger gecko, probably to avoid being eaten.
Moorish Geckos have small granular scales with intermittent large tubercles.  
Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko Moorish Wall Gecko
Tiny juvenile about 2 inches long including tail, El Cajon, San Diego County. © Marc Hawkins Juvenile, San Diego County
© Paul Pecoraro
Juvenile, San Diego County
© Tim Valentine
  Moorish Wall Gecko  
  Juvenile on a brick wall, San Diego County © Michael Flory  

Adults grow to 4.5 - 6 inches in total length (11.4-15 cm). The maximum head-body size is 3 & 5/16 inches (8.4 cm).
(Powell, Conant, & Collins, 2016)

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.
Similar Non-native Geckos Found in California
Ringed Wall Geckos are larger with less wrinkled skin with less prominent tubercles, and they have white spots on the shoulders.
Mediterranean Geckos are smaller with fewer large tubercles and lack the white spots on the shoulders.
Peninsular Leaf-toed Geckos are smaller, with fewer tubercles and no white spots and in California are only found on rocks in the Colorado Desert in the extreme south-central part of the state. They are not found in urban or suburban areas.

Life History and Behavior

Nocturnal, but also known to bask in the sun during cooler parts of the year.
A good climber.
Males defending territories make squeaking calls.
The tail can break off easily, but it will grow back.
The detached tail wriggles on the ground which can distract a predator from the body of the lizard allowing it time to escape.
More information about tail loss and regeneration.
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.

Found in its native habitat on stone walls, boulders, and piles of wood in warm, dry, lowland coastal areas.
Alien populations are typically found on inside and outside walls and cinderblock fences.

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

Moorish Geckos in California probably originated as escaped pets but some of them could have been transported from wild populations, probably from Florida originally, and then they could have been transported from already established California populations to new locations.

The first published report of this species being established in California was a 1998 Geographic Distribution Note in Herp Review that puts the introduction as most likely in or before 1995:

USA: CALIFORNIA: SAN DIEGO Co: 1.5 km S El Cajon city limits in a private residential community ... 200 m. 8 September 1997. Mike Sloop. San Diego Natural History Museum (SDSNH 68675). Verified by L. L. Grismer. An adult female 56 mm SVL (5.5 g) with ovarian eggs in right ovary. Several individuals were detected by the property owners in March 1996, one month after moving to the neighborhood. On the evening of 23 September 1997, I counted 10 individuals (7 adults, 3 hatchlings). Adults were extremely wary and observed near lights at the top of stucco walls and rafters on two buildings. Geckos were found on residential buildings 0.2 km from the core area, and populations >20 individuals have been observed. A resident said that a local pet shop sold this species and other exotic reptiles. It is unclear when the introduction occurred. The colony has survived at least two successive winters (1995-1996). This lizard is expected to expand its range from this localized site in San Diego area. Previously introduced in New Jersey via cork bark shipments from the Mediterranean region, but attempts to colonize were unsuccessful (Conant 1945, Copeia 1945:233). New state record and first record of a breeding population in the United States."

(Clark R. Mahrdt, Herpetological Review 29(1) p. 52, 1998)

Below are locations where this species has been found in California,
based on museum records, published information, and emails to this web site. There are mutliple locations reported in some of the cities listed, especially in El Cajon where they appear to be most common and where they may have been introduced in or before 1995. Moorish Geckos are most likely present at other locations that I do not yet know about. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list. If you see this species at a location not listed here, please let me know.

Fresno County
Clovis (Reported as T. mauritanica, but not confirmed, could be H. turcicus)

Kings County

Los Angeles County
Los Angeles
San Pedro

San Diego County
Carmel Valley
Chula Vista
El Cajon
La Mesa
Mission Bay
Mission Valley
Near the University of San Diego
Pacific Beach
Rios Canyon
San Diego
Solana Beach
Spring Valley

Ventura County
Simi Valley

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.)

Notes on Taxonomy

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
I have not seen any studies that describe a possible threat to native species from this invasive gecko, but native Western Fence Lizards and Southern Alligator Lizards could also occupy the same habitat and compete with it for resources, though they are diurnal lizards while this gecko is nocturnal.
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
Mediterranean Gecko - Hemidactylus turcicus 
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
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 and Pictures
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.

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 conservation status listings for this animal are taken from the April 2024 State of California Special Animals List and the April 2024 Federally Listed Endangered and Threatened Animals of California list (unless indicated otherwise below.) Both lists are produced by multiple agencies every year, and sometimes more than once per year, so the conservation status listing information found below might not be from the most recent lists. To make sure you are seeing the most recent listings, go to this California Department of Fish and Wildlife web page where you can search for and download both lists:

A detailed explanation of the meaning of the status listing symbols can be found at the beginning of the two lists. For quick reference, I have included 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 also go to the NatureServe and IUCN websites to check their rankings.

Check the current California Department of Fish and Wildlife sport fishing regulations to find out if this animal can be legally pursued and handled or collected with possession of a current fishing license. You can also look at the summary of the sport fishing regulations as they apply only to reptiles and amphibians that has been made for this website.

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


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