What is a Gargoyle Gecko (Rhacodactylus auriculatus)?
Rhacodactylus auriculatus goes by several common names including gargoyle gecko, knob-headed giant gecko, and New Caledonian bumpy gecko. They belong to the Rhacodactylus genus along with leachianus giant geckos and rough-snouted giant geckos. The gargoyle gecko is native to mainland New Caledonia; a French island in the southwest Pacific Ocean. The populations are concentrated at the southern end of the island, but populations can also be found in isolated patches northward along the coasts.
- They are arboreal with well-developed lamella on their fingers and toes (aids in climbing).
- Lamella-tipped prehensile tail which functions as a fifth limb.
- They are nocturnal and most active 1-4 hours after sunset.
- Snout-to-vent length is 3.5-6 inches (9-15.2 cm), the tail length is approximately 90% of their body length so another 3.2-5.4 inches (8.1-13.7 cm).
- They weigh 1.9 to 2.6 ounces (55 to 75 gram), the largest on record reached 5.2 ounces (148 grams).
- Gargoyle geckos are named for the bony “horns” or “earlike knobs” located on the top of their large heads.
- These geckos are primarily insectivores and fructivores.
What does their habitat look like?
- Gargoyle geckos are found below an elevation of 3,600 feet (1,100 m) in ultramafic rock areas with lateritic soil rich in minerals (Fe, Mg, Ni, Cr, and Mn).
- Maquis shrublands (89% of the time) is preferred over humid forests (13% of the time).
- Adults perch on shrubs and small trees generally at heights of 6.2 to 6.6 feet (1.9-2 m), while juveniles will perch at heights of 3.3 to 4.6 feet (1-1.4 m).
- Sampling of wild geckos has revealed that the average perch diameter is about 1.6 inches (40 mm).
- There are 10.8 to 13.5 hours of daily daylight, depending on the time of year.
What should their enclosure look like in captivity?
- For adult gargoyle geckos the cage dimensions at the minimum should be 12” l x 16.5” w x 18” h inches (30.5 x 41.9 x 45.7 cm), however bigger and taller cages are always better.
- They can be kept in glass terrariums, PVC enclosures, or plastic storage totes.
- The enclosure should be somewhat densely decorated with plants, cork rounds, and wood perches.
- Hatchlings and babies should be kept in small tubs (approximately 6-12 quarts) until they stabilize above 6-8 grams, this ensures the best growth.
Can you keep a gargoyle gecko at room temperature?
- The simple answer is no: a heating element is almost always required. Room temperature is generally too cold for these geckos because they are used to warmer temperatures in the wild as shown below.
- During the warmest months (November-April), there are daily highs of 80.8-84.6 ℉ and daily lows of 68-72.9 ℉.
- During the coolest months (May-October), there are daily highs of 73.2-78.3 ℉ and daily lows of 61-68 ℉.
What temperature should you keep a gargoyle gecko at in captivity?
- Most gargoyle gecko hobbyists live in the Northern Hemisphere, while New Caledonia is in the Southern Hemisphere. This means that seasons occur opposite to each other. For this reason, it makes sense to adjust the climate data so that the seasons overlap (as shown below).
- During the warmest months (May-October), there are daily highs of 80.8-84.6 ℉ and daily lows of 68-72.9 ℉.
- During the coolest months (November-April), there are daily highs of 73.2-78.3 ℉ and daily lows of 61-68 ℉.
What levels of humidity do gargoyle geckos require?
- Gargoyle geckos come from a humid climate (70%-80%), so in captivity we need to spray them several times per week.
- In the wild, the wet season lasts from January to June and the dry season lasts from July to December.
- In captivity, the wet season should be adjusted to occur from July to December (76% to 80% humidity), and the dry season from January to June (70%-73% humidity).
What do gargoyle geckos eat in the wild?
- Gargoyle geckos have an incredibly diverse diet in the wild.
- They have adapted to insular life by evolving the ability to digest fruit, pollen, nectar, and plant material.
- Including flower parts and sap from Cunoniaceae and Myrtaceae species.
- They eat heavily during the warm months (November-April), their stomachs contain food 90.5% of the time.
- Less insects are available during the cool months (May-October), so they consume more plant matter and only have food in their stomachs 22% of the time.
What should I feed my gargoyle gecko in captivity?
- In captivity, gargoyle geckos should be fed a combination of complete gecko diet (3 to 4 times per week) and live insects (1 to 3 times per week).
- Gecko diet powders (ex: Pangea and Repashy) are available in flavors that are entirely fruit or fruit & insect. The fruit-only diets are not suitable as a staple for gargoyle geckos but can be offered as a treat occasionally or in combination with insects/other flavors.
- Gargoyle geckos should be offered live insects at least once per week, Dubia roaches and crickets are good choices.
- For the best results, “gut-load” the insects with high-quality food 12-48 hours before offering them to your gecko and dust them with calcium powder.
How do I sex a gargoyle gecko?
- Examine the scales in the area above a gecko’s vent using a 30x-60x magnification loupe (10-15+ g):
- Males will have 4 to 7+ rows of pores whereas females will have 3 to 5 rows of dimples.
- Look below the vent for the presence of a bulge (20+ g):
- Males will have an obvious bulge (this is the hemipenes), females will have no slight bulges.
- Check either side of the base of the tail below the vent (25-30+ g):
- Both males and females can develop spurs, but spurs are more pronounced in males.
How fast do gargoyle geckos grow?
- Gargoyle geckos weigh somewhere between 1.5 to 4.5 grams upon hatching.
- Six months: 7 g to 19 g range & 13.0-gram average.
- Twelve months: 14 g to 26 g range & 24.7-gram average.
- Eighteen months: 27 g to 38 g range & 36.4-gram average.
- Twenty-four months: 37 g to 55 g range & 48.0-gram average.