- History and Culture
Phelsuma ornata commonly known as the Mauritius ornate day gecko, is as its name suggests a diurnal species of geckos and one of the smallest day geckos reaching a total length of 12 centimeters, with males slightly larger than females. Like other day geckos, they are characterized by vivid body colours. Their backs can be bluish green, green with a blue area on the forward part of its back or completely blue covered with red dots. The back of its neck and its head is greyish brown. The snout of this gecko consists of an intricate pattern of cyan, white, red and dark blue while their turquoise tail bears red transversal stripes. The species are found on the island Mauritius and some surrounding islets where it inhabits different trees and bushes and feeds on insects and nectar.
Day geckos have dry-scaly skin which is fine and sensitive and specialized feet. They have unblinking, lidless large eyes and round pupils covered by a transparent, protective shield, which they keep clean by licking with their sticky tongue. They have expanded toe pads with scales covered by a myriad of microscopic hair-like bristles which bear at their tip between 100- and 1000-minute suction cups. This allows the gecko to walk up walls, across ceilings, and even across the smooth pane of a glass window.
Ornate day geckos can be found in mainland Mauritius, Round Island, Île aux Aigrettes and Coin de Mire. The species typically lives in the drier coastal areas at low and mid elevation, living on trees and shrubs where they feed on various insects and other invertebrates as well as soft, sweet fruit, pollen and nectar.
The female P. ornata will lay one to two eggs, which tend to be attached to one another. She will hold the eggs pressed together with her hind legs until the shells become hard. At this point, she will attach her eggs to a substrate - removing the eggs will break them – giving these geckos the nickname “gluers”. Once the eggs are laid, they are left to survive on their own, with an incubation period of two to three months. Once hatched, juveniles will reach sexual maturity in about a year.
The day gecko is the most vocal of all lizards. They have numerous predators, including the Mauritius kestrel. Their thin skin, which is easily torn, is thought to allow them to escape predators.
The species is not currently listed in the IUCN Red List. The ornate day gecko has lost most of its original habitat but has been able to adapt. However, the ongoing spread and impact of introduced predators, the spread of invasive plants, agriculture and urban development are causing the gradual decline of the Mauritian day gecko species.
All day geckos, including Phelsuma ornata, benefit humans by helping to control the insect population.
Encyclopaedia Mauritiana. 2002-2005. Mauritian Ornate Day Gecko Phelsuma ornata ornata. http://www.mauritiusencyclopedia.com/Nature/Fauna/Reptiles/Phelsuma_ornata_ornata.htm.
Bungard, Michael, Carl Jones, Vikash Tatayah, and Diana J. Bell. 2014. "The habitat use of two species of day geckos (Phelsuma ornata and Phelsuma Guimbeaui) and implications for conservation management in Island ecosystems." Herpetological Conservation and Biology 9 (2): :551-562.