Leaf-tailed Geckos

Patrick Couper, Curator of Herpetology, examines a Border Ranges Leaf-tailed Gecko in the field
Image: Steve Wilson
Gulbaru Leaf-tailed Gecko
Image: Conrad Hoskin & UQ media

Leaf-tailed geckos are masters of camouflage - their broken outlines and lichen-like patterns render them near invisible in their rainforest homes. At night they emerge to sit motionless on rocks and tree trunks, clinging to the surface with spidery limbs and bird-like feet. These geckos are synonymous with Queensland’s rainforests. This association was emphasised by Queensland Museum herpetologists when describing the new genus Saltuarius, which translates to ‘keeper of the forest’.

Herpetologists at the Queensland Museum, working with colleagues from James Cook University, the Australian Museum, Sydney University and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, have undertaken extensive fieldwork to document rainforest faunas. Since 1991, this collaboration has increased the number of described leaf-tailed geckos from five to sixteen species. These animals, unique to eastern Australia, are an ancient group whose current distribution reflects the contraction of formerly widespread rainforests due to past climate change. In dry times, populations of leaf-tails contracted to the small, moist forests that survived on high mountain tops and in steep rocky gorges. Here they speciated, so that two close-together mountains can have their own distinctive geckos. Consequently, knowledge of these animals and their distributions provide important clues to tracing the history of Queensland’s rainforests.

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