This amazing creature is a master of disguise, blending in to its surroundings to the point that it is nearly indistinguishable from the litter of the forest floor where it makes its home. The gecko, which has evolved its elaborate camouflage to escape visual detection by predators, sports leaf-shaped tail and leaf-patterned skin, complete with veins, folds, and insect nibble marks.
Both crypticity and mimicry deceive the beholder into believing that the animal is something that it is not. Crypticity typically involves an animal avoiding detection through colors and patterns and can be visual, olfactory, or auditory (Stevens & Merilaita 2009). Visual crypticity can include camouflage, disruptive coloration, and background-matching, and can be quite striking. Crypticity is distinguished from a similar phenomenon, masquerading, in that masquerading involves the matching of specific inanimate object like twigs or rocks rather than matching the general background (Gullan & Cranston 2010).
The majority of individuals of the few extant (living) species of leaf-tailed gecko on Earth are endemic to Madagascar and a few surrounding islands and are inextricably linked to the survival of the Madagascan rainforest, meaning that habitat destruction primarily in the form of deforestation poses a potential threat for these cool critters. There are several protected areas in Madagascar that are therefore crucial for the leaf-tailed gecko’s continued existence. Some of the species are of “least concern” on the IUCN’s conservation status scale, meaning that the protected areas are doing their job for the most part; however, illegal harvesting of these animals has caused some species’ numbers to drop and vary from “near threatened” to “vulnerable” status. These little guys are unique and incredible, and offer just another reason to save the earth’s rainforests, without which many interesting species such as this one could not hope to survive!
Gullan, P.J. and P.S. Cranston. The Insects. Ed. 4. Wiley-Blackwell: UK, 2010.
Stevens, M. & S. Merilaita. 2009. Animal camouflage: current issues and new perspectives. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 364:423-427.
“Uroplatus phantasticus.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uroplatus_phantasticus
“Satanic Leaf-tailed gecko.” http://www.arkive.org/satanic-leaf-tailed-gecko/uroplatus-phantasticus/
“Leaf-tailed gecko.” http://a-z-animals.com/animals/leaf-tailed-gecko/
“Animal of the week: the satanic leaf-tailed gecko.” http://www.bite.ca/bitedaily/2013/03/animal-of-the-week-the-satanic-leaf-tailed-gecko/