New Study on the Habitat Use of Day Geckos

Phelsuma guimbeaui from Mauritius.

Despite the brilliant colors, the natrual history of day geckos (Phelsuma) is little known. The most recent issue of Herpetological Conservation and Biology includes a very nice study on the habitat use of two Mauritian species, showing that they are most abundant in native forest and pointing out that, thanks to their pollinating services, they are keystone species. An interesting point is that even though day geckos are essentially Old World anole doppelgängers, in their habitat use they differ in rarely leaving the trunks of trees. One of the authors is legendary ornithological conservationist Carl Jones, almost single-handedly responsible for preventing the extinction of several Mauritian bird species.

Here’s the abstract:

Many fragile ecosystems across the globe are islands with high numbers of endemic species. Most tropical islands have been subject to significant landscape alteration since human colonisation, with a consequent loss of both habitat and those specialist species unable to adapt or disperse in the face of rapid change. Day geckos (genus Phelsumaare thought to be keystone species in their habitats and are, in part, responsible for pollination of several endangered endemic plant species. However, little is known about key drivers of habitat use which may have conservation implications for the genus. We assessed the habitat use of two species of Phelsuma (Phelsuma ornata and Phelsuma guimbeaui) in Mauritius. Both species showed a strong affinity with tree trunks, specific tree architecture and are both restricted to native forest. Tree hollows or cavities are also important for both species and are a rarely documented microhabitat for arboreal reptiles. Both P. ornata and P. guimbeaui avoid areas of high disturbance. Our data suggest that active conservation of Phelsuma requires not only the protection and restoration of native forest, but also implementation of forestry practices designed to ensure the presence of suitable trees.

About Jonathan Losos

Professor and Curator of Herpetology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. I've spent my entire professional career studying anoles and have discovered that the more I learn about anoles, the more I realize I don't know.

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