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Crested Gecko

Rhacodactylus ciliatus (GUICHENOT, 1866)

Synonyms: Guichenot’s Giant Gecko, Eyelash Gecko

 

The epithet "ciliatus" derives from the Latin word “cilia” = “eyelash” and means as much as "provided with eyelashes”. It refers to the spiny scales on the eyelids that look like eyelashes.

German: Kronengecko

 

Conservation status

Not protected. However, an export from New Caledonia is not allowed by the local laws.

Price range

Medium. Juvenile geckos are available for about 30 €. The price may vary depending on the morph and can reach about 300 euros and more.

Difficulty level

Low. This reptile can be recommended for beginners.

 

Description

Rhacodactylus ciliatusThe genus Rhacodactylus with its 6 representatives is currently en vogue in Germany, and its popularity continues to grow. Virtually appeared out of nowhere, it’s not possible to imagine a herp enthusiasts world without these lizards anymore. In particular, Rhacodactylus ciliatus enjoys great popularity, as it was achieved to outbreed certain color characteristics. The export from their habitat is prohibited now, but that should not bother us, since an import is unnecessary anyway, because the geckos can be propagated easily, so the needs can be met by offspring.
In 1866, the Crested Gecko was described as Correlophus ciliatus by GUICHENOT and in 1883 BOULENGER transferred it into the genus Rhacodactylus. The Crested Gecko was considered extinct for a long time until a few specimens were rediscovered in 1994 on Ile des Pins, south of the main island Grande Terre (SEIPP & KLEMMER 1994). The main reason for this species being thought extinct for a long time, is most probably due to its range in very few and isolated areas in the woods far away from man-dominated landscapes. Certainly, another reason is the nocturnal life in the canopy of the rainforests. In the daytime these animals sleep curled and well hidden in the trees.
Rhacodactylus ciliatusThe Crested Gecko is endemic to New Caledonia. The preferred habitat is the primary rainforest of the lowlands where they mainly live in trees at a height of 15 meters (HENKEL and SCHMIDT 2007). These geckos favor to live on smaller branches and try to avoid the tree trunk. By living on the branches, it is believed that Crested Geckos try to dodge the Giant Gecko Rhacodactylus leachianus, that counts among their natural enemies and is mostly found on the trunk.
Crested Geckos belong to the smaller Rhacodactylus species. They reach a total length of up to 210 mm with a SVL of up to 130 mm. Less than half the total length is made up by the tail. At this size they reach a weight of up to 45 g. HOTZ (2008) noted that pregnant females can even reach a weight of up to 60 grams. The head has a triangular shape and the width can sometimes be very pronounced in some individuals. The infralabialia are white. The limbs are strong and the toes are provided with wide adhesive lamellae that allow to climb on smooth surfaces. The color of the gecko is variable. By nature, it varies from brown and gray tones over yellow and orange to red and green. Occasionally, even black or white spots are interspersed on the body.The flanks are usually darker in color than the dorsum, while the area on the top of the head and back between the spines is often brightly colored. The intensity of coloration, however, also depends on the mood and time of Rhacodactylus ciliatusday. At night, the geckos are colored more intensely than during the day. The iris of the animals is beige to light yellow. The vertical pupil can be narrowed to a narrow gap in strong light. The characteristical and eponymous feature, however, are the two rows of spine-like scales, starting like eyelashes above the eyes and extending like a crown over the head along to the tail. The tail itself mostly carries bright saddle-like blotches and is flattened and button-like distended at the tip. Sideways of the cloaca are enlarged whitish scales, the so-called post anal tubercles that may be larger in males. Below the tip of the tail there are also adhesive lamellae that enable to use the tail as a grasping organ. Unfortunately, once the tail is dropped, it only grows as a small knob again. SEIPP & HENKEL (2000) pretty much never observed specimens with complete tails in the wild. HOTZ (2008) also reports that her animals have dropped their tails over time, but that doesn’t seem to impair them.

Rhacodactylus ciliatus has a lifespan of more than 20 years.

The main natural enemy is Rhacodactylus leachianus, but also introduced rats and pets occasionally capture Crested Geckos.

Socialization with similar sized lizards is possible. HENKEL & SCHMIDT (2007) for example, show a photo of a Crested Gecko that peacefully eats a mashed banana together with Standing’s Day Gecko (Phelsuma standingi). Though, the authors do not recommend a socialization since because of limited space in the terrarium, diurnal lizards could disturb the Crested Gecko while sleeping. Socialization with Rhacodactylus chahoua should also be avoided. There are reports of viable hybrids between these two species (SEIPP & HENKEL 2011).

Range map of Rhacdactylus ciliatusSexual differences

From the age of 4-6 months, the sexes can be well differentiated. Males have visible hemipenes that show as bumps near the cloaca. A more discreet distinguishing feature are the slightly more visible preanofemoral pores in the males that can be seen with the age of 2-3 months (SEIPP & HENKEL 2011).

Range

Islands of New Caledonia [(eg south of the main island of Grande Terre near the Yaté Lake (GIRARD & HEUCLIN 1998), Koutomo (DE VOSJOLI & FAST 1999) and on Ile de Pins (SEIPP & KLEMMER 1994)]. The main geographic range is on the smaller islands. Only a few finds are known from the main island (eg Parc territorial de la Rivière Bleue and area around Mount Dzumac). The type locality is the village Ciu near the town Canala.

Husbandry in the terrarium

Terrarium

Rhacodactylus ciliatusIn the wild, these geckos live on tall trees and often jump between the branches. Because of the climbing mode of life, the terrarium should be higher than wide. HOTZ (2008) recommends a terrarium size of 150 x 50 x 150 cm for four animals. Provided adequate hiding places are offered, HENKEL & SCHMIDT (2007) consider a size of 50 x 40 x 70 cm for a couple and 100 x 50 x 80 cm for four females and one male to be sufficient. KLUSMEYER (1999) mentions a terrarium size of 40 x 50 x 60 cm for a couple. SEIPP & HENKEL (2011) speak of 40 x 50 x 80 cm for a male and two females. Males do not tolerate each other and are not allowed to be kept in a terrarium under any circumstances.

Lighting

Since this species is nocturnal, you do not need special UV lighting. You can use T5 or T8 fluorescent lamps to cover the requirements of the plants and to simulate a day and night rhythm. Spot lamps are used as a heat source. Although the geckos are nocturnal, they can sometimes be observed basking in the morning hours (SEIPP & HENKEL 2011). KLUSMEYER (1999) mentions energy saving lamps and 20-watts halogen bulbs for lighting. In the summer, the light should be on for 14 hours and in winter for 10 hours.

Temperature

Climate graphThe Crested Gecko is exposed to strong temperature fluctuations in the wild. Temperatures of 30 °C during the day may fall to 10 °C at night. This should also be considered in captivity. With an average of 23-30 °C, however, the temperatures in the habitat are very mild over the entire year and reach maximum values of up to 35 °C from November to April. At night, the temperature drops an average of 8 °C. In the smaller rainy season from June to July, the average daily temperature is 20-24 °C. During this time, the night temperatures regularly fall to values of 10 °C. HENKEL & SCHMIDT (2007) recommend to create different temperature zones in the terrarium. Since the geckos are nocturnal, you can use heating cables and heating mats. With glass terrariums for example, the heating mat can be glued to the outside of the terrarium. Rhacodactylus ciliatusThe authors also mention that you can wrap a heating cable around a horizontally arranged branch and fix it with silicone adhesive. Above the heating cable you can now attach pieces of bark for a better look. Elstein ceramic heaters are also well suited as a heat source for nocturnal animals. However, they get very hot and must be secured with a cage. HOTZ (2008) recommends daytime temperatures of 25-30 °C in the summer. Local basking spots may also reach 35 °C. At night, the temperature should fall to 20-22 °C. In winter, the daytime temperature should be at 22-23 °C and drop to 16-20 °C at night. HENKEL & SCHMIDT (2007) recommend a day temperature of 20 °C and night temperature of 15 °C in winter with local temperatures of 25-30 °C at daytime. In summer, the temperature should be set at 25-28 °C with local temperatures of 35 °C and a setback to room temperature at night. Temperatures of 40 °C should not be exceeded in the basking areas. KLUSMEYER (1999) mentions daytime temperatures of 25-28 °C with maximum temperatures of 32 °C under the spotlights. At night, the temperatures drop to 18 °C. In winter, temperatures are set up at 22-24 °C during the day and 16 °C at night.

Humidity

Because of the Pacific winds, the humidity is high on the smaller islands south of the main island of Grande Terre. Therefore, the humidity should be at 60-80% under terrarium conditions. Usually, two rainy seasons occur in the natural habitat.  The main rainy season with heavy rainfall lasts from January to March and a rain system is helpful to simulate this phase. Alternatively, you can spray the terrarium several times a day with lukewarm water. You should spray especially in the evening, so that the geckos that slowly become active can lick the water droplets. From June to July, there is another rainy season but with less rain.

Setup

Rhacodactylus ciliatusRhacodactylus ciliatus lives in the sparse lowland rain forests. This kind of biotope is characterized by tall trees with dense undergrowth. HENKEL & SCHMIDT (2007) report that the vegetation mainly consists of gymnosperms, tree ferns and cook pines (Araucaria columnaris). To provide sufficient opportunities for climbing and to ensure high humidity, the enclosure should be set up with plants and climbing branches. HOTZ (2008) mentions Ficus spp. Also Sansevieria spp. are suitable as planting. KLUSMEYER (1999) mentions a large-leafed Philodendron as a popular venue to sleep during the day. SEIPP & HENKEL (2011) mention Ficus benjamini, F. elastica and F. pumila. As climbing opportunities you can use branches of corkscrew hazels and willows as well as lianas and cork tree branches. The latter, however, should not have too rough bark. Similar to Rhacodactylus auriculatus, tree holes are not used. Tree trunks also are rarely used. Rhacodactylus ciliatus prefers smooth surfaces and avoids rough objects. HOTZ (2008) uses a 10-15 cm high layer of a sand and potting soil mixture as substrate. HENKEL & SCHMIDT (2007) also use a potting soil-sand mixture in a ratio of 2:1, but they also mention that all substrates like clay soil, peat, coconut soil up to gravel are suitable. The substrate should have a minimum height of 8 cm. A water bowl completes the setup.

Feeding

Rhacodactylus ciliatusIn contrast to the Gargoyle Geckos, the Crested Geckos are active hunters that search the terrarium for food at night. Almost all kinds of live food is accepted (crickets, mealworms, wax worms, flies, cockroaches, etc.), whereas locusts and cockroaches are accepted only reluctantly (HOTZ 2008). The food should regularly be enriched with vitamins and minerals, and additionally, a bowl with grated cuttlebone should be offerd. It is known from the wild that these geckos mostly feed on fruits (SEIPP & HENKEL 2011). HENKEL & SCHMIDT (2007) mention that the animal to herbal food ratio could be 1:3. In captivity, you can offer commercial puree for babies in different flavors. SEIPP & HENKEL (2011) mention the flavors apple, apricot, banana, passion fruit and peach. HENKEL & SCHMIDT (2007) feed each animal with a heaped teaspoon of paste, which is distributed in the terrarium in plastic caps of bottles. HOTZ (2008) feeds her geckos three times a week. Young animals are fed daily at first and from the age of 4-6 weeks only every 2 days. HENKEL & SCHMIDT (2007) also feed their adult geckos two to a maximum of three times a week with 3 large crickets or 2-3 Superworms. Young animals are fed every 2 days with as many insects, as they will eat in one night. Water is licked from the leaves after spraying, but still do not miss a bowl of fresh drinking water. KLUSMEYER (1999) adds 5-7 drops Multibionta Multibio-Weyxin (vitamin supplement) per liter of spraying water.

Breeding

Rhacodactylus ciliatusDifferent seasons appear to be important for the initiation of reproductive activities. A cool winter period should be simulated in order to bring the animals in mating mood. This period is also helpful for recovery of the females. HENKEL & SCHMIDT (2007) mention a reduction in temperature to 20 °C at day and 15 °C at night over 2 months. KLUSMEYER (1999) also reduces the lighting period within 6 weeks from 14 to 10 hours. He assumes, however, that a dormancy has no influence on mating activities and probably the geckos would reproduce all year round without a winter period. HOTZ (2008) recommends that females should have a weight of at least 35 g before they are mated for the first time. This weight can be reached in 13-14 months. If a male is willing to mate, it approaches the female with jerky movements. An also mate willing female will lie quietly, while the male climbs on its back and bites into its neck. Shortly afterwards, the copulation begins. After a gestation period of 30-40 days, the eggs will be layed. In this time, the females search the terrarium for suitable places and carry out test drillings. Two eggs with a maximum size of 11 x 24 mm and maximum weight of 1.2 to 2.8 g are placed per clutch. During one season, females can produce seven clutches in an interval of 4 weeks. BALDWIN & REPASHEY (1998) even report on 10 clutches in a year that were produced in an interval of 24 days. HOTZ (2008) reports that the eggs are preferably placed between plant roots and setup materials. SEIPP & HENKEL (2011) made similar observations. The eggs should be carefully transferred to an incubator. Materials like peat, Seramis and vermiculite are suitable breeding substrates. HENKEL & SCHMIDT (2007) report on a high hatch rate with the use of perlite. It’s recommended to use vermiculite of a coarse grain to avoid suffocation after feeding on the substrate. HOTZ (2008) uses small plastic boxes filled with vermiculit for incubation. The eggs should be buried halfway in the substrate. HOTZ points out that at the end of the incubation period, the substrate may not be too wet, as this can lead to death of the embryos. At temperatures above 32 °C, the embryos will die as well (HENKEL & SCHMIDT 2007). The influence of incubation temperature on sex determination in this species has not been resolved completely. HENKEL & SCHMIDT (2007) report on the occurrence of both sexes at incubation temperatures between 22 and 25 °C but with a higher proportion of females. BACH (2006) reports that predominantly females hatch at 26-27 °C. KLUSMEYER (1999) cites HÖSS who reports that mainly males will hatch when incubated at room temperature, while at 26-27 °C and a temperature reduction of 3-4 °C for 3-4 hours, mostly females will hatch. At temperatures above 28 °C, mainly males will be produced (SEIPP & HENKEL 2011).
Female Crested Geckos can save semen (Amphigonia retardata) and produce up to four eggs without remating (HOTZ 2008).

Incubation temp.

Incubation period

Size

Weight

HENKEL & SCHMIDT (2007)

25-28 °C
20 °C

60-75 days
120 days

n.m.

n.m.

HOTZ (2008)

25-27 °C

60-75 days

71-78 mm

1.5-2 g

KLUSMEYER (1999)

26-27 °C with setback to room temperature at night

60-70 days

n.m.

n.m.

Table: Incubation data found in the literature

Rhacodactylus ciliatusShortly after hatching, the young animals shed their skin for the first time. The small geckos can be reared in groups or individually. HOTZ (2008) recommends the use of boxes like the common faunariums for example or plastic boxes with ventilation holes (20 x 20 x 20 cm for one lizard). The housing conditions are the same as for the adults, only the temperature should be lower at 23 °C like recommended by HENKEL & SCHMIDT (2007), because otherwise it could lead to nutritional deficiencies such as rickets. First food is eaten after 2-3 days. At the age of 8-9 months, the Crested Geckos are sexually mature (HOTZ 2008). SEIPP & HENKEL (2011) speak of 10-11 months.

References

BACH, S. (2006): Der Kronengecko Rhacodactylus ciliatus. - Art für Art, Natur und Tier-Verlag, Münster, 62 S.

BALDWIN, R. & A. REPASHEY (1998): The New Caledonian Crested Gecko. - Reptiles, 6(4): 32-43.

BAUER, A. & V. VINDUM (1990): A checklist and a key to the herpetofauna of New Caledonia, with remarks on biogeography. - Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci., San Francisco, 4. Ser., 46:17-45.

BAUER, A. & R. SADLIER (2000): The Herpetofauna of New Caledonia. - SSAR.

BÖHME, W. & F.-W. HENKEL (1985): Zur Kenntnis der Herpetofauna Neukaledoniens, speziell der Gattung Rhacodactylus. - herpetofauna, Weinstadt, 7(34): 23-29.

BOULENGER, G.A. (1883): On the geckos of New Caledonia. - Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond.: 123-128.

DE VOSJOLI, P & F. FAST (1999): Natural History, Captive Husbandry and Breeding of the New Caledonian Crested Gecko, Rhacodactylus ciliatus. Part 1. Natural History. - Vivarium, Escondido, 10(6): 6-9.

DE VOSJOLI, P & F. FAST (1999): Natural History, Captive Husbandry and Breeding of the New Caledonian Crested Gecko, Rhacodactylus ciliatus. Part 2. Husbandry and Propagation. - Vivarium, Escondido, 11(1): 17-23.

GIRARD, F. & D. HEUCLIN (1998): Première mention du gecko Rhacodactylus ciliatus sur le Grande Terre (Nouvelle-Calédonie) depuis sa descrition en 1866. - Bull. Soc. Herp. Fr., 85-86: 60-61.

GUICHENOT, A. (1866): Notice sur un nouveau genre de sauriens de la famille des geckotiens, Correlophus ciliatus. - Mém. Soc. Hist. nat. Cherbourg, 12: 248-252.

HAMPER, R. (2003): The Crested Gecko, Rhacodactylus ciliatus, in Captivity. - ECO Publishing, Lansing, 69 S.

HENKEL, F.-W. & W. SCHMIDT (2007): Rhacodactylus ciliatus und auriculatus. Pflege und Vermehrung. - Herpeton Verlag, Offenbach.

HOTZ, V. (2008): Haltung und Zucht des Neukaledonischen Kronengeckos (Rhacodactylus ciliatus), ein unkomplizierter Gecko. - Terraria, Natur und Tier-Verlag, Münster, 3(4): 75-80.

KLUSMEYER, B. (1999): Rhacodactylus ciliatus (GUICHENOT). - Sauria, Berlin, Loseblattsammlung: 467-470.

KULLMANN, B. (1995): Über die Wiederentdeckung des Kronengeckos (Rhacodactylus ciliatus) in Neu Kaledonien. - elaphe N.F., Rheinbach, 3(2): 68-71.

LOVE, B. & K. HANLEY (2005): Rhacodactylus ciliatus (Guichenot 1866). - Reptilia (GB), 39: 43-46.

PETHER, J. (1999): In Search of a Giant - A Trip to New Caledonia. Part Two: The Care and Breeding of Three Species of Rhacodactylus in Captivity. - Reptilian, Vol. 5(10): 11-17.

SEIPP, R. & K. KLEMMER (1994): Wiederentdeckung von Rhacodactylus ciliatus - GUICHENOT, 1866 im Süden Neukaledoniens (Reptilia: Sauria: Gekkonidae). - Senckenb. Biol. 74: 199-204.

SEIPP, R. & F.-W. HENKEL (2011): Rhacodactylus - Biologie, Haltung und Zucht. - Chimaira-Verlag, Frankfurt/M.

WITHERS, C. (2004): GGA cares for Rhacodactylus ciliatus. - Chit Chat 15: 8-10.

 

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