This Is Not A Madagascan Day Gecko

What baby wouldn’t love this?

We all know that geckos want to be anoles. But I fear I have unearthed a plot by an unidentified group of gecko-groupies to elevate the lowly gecko in the eyes of the public by forcing innocent anoles to masquerade themselves as (gasp) Madagascan day geckos. It all began several weeks ago, under the guise of a day trip to London to take in a little-known sporting event involving heroic UK demi-gods and demi-goddesses versus some other people (or so the BBC told me). Late in the day, we found ourselves wandering one of our favourite London haunts – the Natural History Museum. The mission: a gift for our soon-to-be-born niece (and where else would you go to find a gift for a newborn other than a natural history museum gift shop?). In the book section, I found a potentially better option: My First Book of Reptiles and Amphibians. It looked perfect – what baby wouldn’t love to be lulled to sleep by a full page close-up of a mouse disappearing down a viper’s throat or tidbits of information like “An adder’s bite is rarely fatal. It can cause mild swelling, and is very painful, but it is unlikely to kill you.” Imagine what herpetological feats said child would achieve later in life!

Naturally (at least to readers of this blog), the first thing I did was flip through the book to find the page on Anolis. To my dismay, there wasn’t one (Needless to say, the book’s gift-potential had just taken a major hit). However, as I flipped through pages quickly, I soon found a full page picture of Anolis carolinensis (or maybe A. porcatus . . .  who can tell?). But – wait a second – something was wrong. It wasn’t an anole page at all. It was devoted to those other toe-pad wielding, but dewlap-lacking, lizards! There sat our noble anole, accompanied by the heading ‘This is a Madagascan day gecko’. Sacrilege! Instantly, my confidence in the book was shattered and I began to question all I had read (Maybe those feet couldn’t climb anything? Maybe a chameleon’s tongue doesn’t shoot out so fast I can’t see it?). Clearly, the peer-review process had broken down.

Honest mistake or conspiracy?

Of course, we could perhaps (but we won’t) forgive the error – after all, it’s not as if they mixed up an anole with a varanid or something. Or maybe it is a hidden commentary on anole – day gecko convergence? Perhaps it is more complete than previously thought – enough to fool a children’s book editor? Or perhaps not.

Of course, there is another possibility. Perhaps the publisher had deliberately inserted the error to inspire the righteous outrage of the anolosphere in a bid to ensnare their £8.95 which, moved by the need to share their indignation, would undoubtedly purchase the book. Or, even more sinisterly, had gecko proponents infiltrated the upper echelons of children publishing? Furthermore, was the Natural History Museum an innocent victim or co-conspirator? Either way, I bought the book. But I won’t inflict it on my niece. I’m keeping it.

About Adam Algar

Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham (UK). My research focuses on niche limits and dynamics across scales, from individual organisms to the globe. Mostly lizards.

5 thoughts on “This Is Not A Madagascan Day Gecko

  1. Wow. How on earth could someone mistake an anole for a gecko??? Especially a madagascar day gecko, with those bright orange spots! I’m floored. (Note: I live in Hawaii, so I probably have more exposure to geckos and anoles than many people, but still!)

    Photo is of my pet madagascar day gecko, Lieutenant Dan (sadly deceased many years ago).

  2. Ugghhhh! Where to start?
    – 400 species of geckos? Try 1500 and counting!
    – Most “mum” geckos lay hard-shelled eggs (~1300 species) while the remaining 200 or so species lay soft-shelled eggs.
    – The largest extant gecko species is Rhacodactylus leachianus (256mm SVL) while the largest known gecko is the extinct Hoplodactylus delcourti (370mm SVL). As far as I know the largest tokay gecko was ‘just’ 170mm SVL. Still a monster but not the largest!

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