First described by Linnaeus in 1758, the scientific name for the Moorish Gecko is Tarentola Mauritania: (latin ‘Tarentola‘ after the town in Italy and ‘Mauritania‘ simply meaning Mauritanian). It is probably the most readily recognised lizard and is common and widespread throughout Iberia, although mainly found in coastal areas of other Mediterranean countries. In wild habitats the gecko favours rocky habitats, but it is also frequently found around houses and other buildings.
This is a typical gecko with a plump robust body, large head, bulky tail and big stocky limbs. The fingers are almost round and flat with adhesive pads covering the undersides that enables them to adhere to almost any surface.
Individuals are variable in colour, often light brown or light greyish brown with darker and lighter shaded patterns along the body. Juveniles are more vivid and the shades of the colour variations are more obvious. It may be that the more nocturnal geckos are usually those with the lighter form as they take advantage of outside lights attracting insects, and that the darker ones are the ‘wilder’ ones, more often seen in the daytime.
The geckos diet is mainly comprised of insects of varying sizes, often large ones, including grasshoppers.
Geckos are very territorial and make squeaking and clicking sounds when threatening another or defending themselves. Fights often result in the loss of a tail. The tail will grow back, but it will never be the same as the original as the textured scales cannot be replaced. The following two photographs were taken at Sotogrande reserve where geckos can often be found basking on the warmed wood of the walls of the bird hide overlooking the lagoon. They illustrate different stages of tail replacement, but this must be a risky place to be a gecko as the two individuals were very close together.
The process of looking for a mate begins very soon after emergence from winter hibernation. Once mating has taken place the female gecko lays 1-5 eggs, selecting a rock crevice, a crack in a wall or if around human habitations under roof tiles. Incubation takes up to ten weeks, less if the female retained the eggs for longer before laying them. When they hatch the young geckos are just 2 – 2.5cm long and although vulnerable they are fully equipped to look after themselves.
Geckos may live up to 8 years, but a typical lifespan is much shorter. They are active at night and will be seen out hunting as long as the temperature does not drop below 15°C.
Their main predators are birds and domestic cats.