Reports from the Field

Bynoe’s Prickly Gecko

This rather unique gecko (Heteronotia binoei) was named after a British naturalist Benjamin Bynoe, who was a surgeon on the Beagle with Charles Darwin.

I was astonished when I found this gecko while shifting wood and wouldn’t have seen it if it hadn’t moved. I have never before seen this gecko, even though I have travelled through many areas where it is found.

Researching my find I learnt a lot about where it occurs, its characteristics as well as its diet and unusual means of reproduction.

Distribution

Their distribution is vast. They are endemic to Australia and inhabit areas across the length and breadth of our country except for the relatively small areas of the South West and South East regions of the country and the ACT. They are also found on offshore islands. They can be found as far south as the Perth region, however sightings in this area are uncommon. The most densely populated areas are arid or dry areas or where habitat degradation has occurred.

Bynoe’s Prickly Gecko

Characteristics

This is quite a unique little reptile. They exhibit a huge variety of different colours: yellow, cream, beige, black and brown and usually carry at least two of the main colours, more commonly cream and brown. They do adapt their colour to the surface which they are on. Fully grown, they measure around 12 cm. There are approximately 192 different species of gecko in Australia, so the easiest way to identify Bynoe’s Gecko is by their feet. Their feet don’t have expandable foot pads and look similar to birds’ feet. Because of the lack of pads, there is some limitation to their ability to climb trees or walls. Their skin looks sharp and prickly, hence their common name of Prickly Gecko and, although covered in scales, their skin is soft to touch. They have no eyelids and their eyes are protected by clear scales; any dust is cleaned by the gecko’s tongue. Their calls differ and are of a wide range.

Diet

They hunt mainly at night and eat insects and larvae, some other lizards, vegetation, spiders, crustaceans and millipedes. They are very fast when disturbed so, unlike other geckos, somewhat more effective at avoiding being eaten by a predator. They are not under threat; however, they still have predators such as birds, feral cats, dogs, feral pigs, foxes and cane toads. Factors also affecting their wellbeing are habitat degradation and loss, and climate change.

Reproduction

Annually these geckoes, around September to January, lay two eggs which are hidden under leaf litter, in burrows or in hollow logs. The young hatch between February and March. The interesting thing about these little reptiles is that they are the only Australian reptile known to be parthenogenetic. That is, the female is able to produce a clone, so she doesn’t need a male to reproduce—no fertilization necessary. Because of this, some of the populations are entirely female.

My love of geckoes began when I was a child, as my father used to collect a few eggs and we were able to watch the young hatch then release them in a safe place. My fascination with these small but gentle creatures has enabled me to not only share the importance of respecting other inhabitants of our planet but also the importance of their care and nurturing.

Maureen Spencer

References:

  • Wikipedia
  • Arod
  • Backyard Buddies
  • Atlas of Living Australia