Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Turnip-tailed Gecko, Thecadactylus rapicauda (Houttuyn, 1782)

Thecadactylus rapicauda (Houttuyn, 1782)

Gekko Rapicauda Houttuyn 1782: 323
Stellio perfoliatus Schneider 1792: 26 

         (substitute name for G. rapicauda)
Gekko laevis Daudin 1802: 112
Gekko surinamensis Daudin 1802: 126
Platydactylus theconyx Duméril & Bibron 1836: 306
Pachydactylus tristis Hallowell 1854: 98
Thecadactylus rapicaudus — Boulenger 1885: 111
Pachydactylus tristis — Boulenger 1885: 200
Thecadactylus rapicaudus - Goeldi 1902: 511
Thecadactylus rapicauda - Miranda-Ribeiro 1955

Taxonomic notes. There are three species currently recognized in the genus Thecadactylus. Thecadactylus rapicauda is widespread - and it seems likely it is composed of multiple species. Type locality: "American Islands"; restricted to Chichén Itzâ, Yucatán, México, by Smith and Taylor, 1950, and to Paramaribo, Suriname, by Hoogmoed, 1973.

Distribution: The Turip-Tailed Gecko is known from the following localities: Mexico (Chiapas, Tabasco, Yucatan, Campeche, Quintana Roo), Belize, Guatemala,  Honduras (including Islas de la Bahia and Utila), Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Trinidad, Tobago, Antilles, Leeward Islands (Los Testi, Bonaire, Curacao), Aruba, Antigua, Barbuda, Colombia (Valle del Cauca, Chocó), Ecuador, French Guiana, Surinam, Guyana, Venezuela (including Cojedes), Isla Margarita, Brazil (Amapa, Para, Amazonas, Roraima, Rondônia, Acre).

Localities for Trinidad and Tobago.
Trinidad: Spring Hill, [Simla, Arima Valley]; Aripo Ward, Aripo Hgts off Aripo Rd, ca 3 mi N Eastern Main Rd; Paramount Hotel, San Fernando: Aripo Valley; Diego Martin; ICTA campus, St Augustine; Matura - Toco Road, vicinity of milestone 21-3/4; Petite Tacaribe, near, W of Base Camp, E of Murphy's Cove; Curepe; Chacachacare Island, N side of Chacachacare Bay.  Tobago: hills above Man-of-War Bay, 2 km ENE of Charlotteville; Speyside, Manta Lodge; Scarborough; Pigeon Point Beach; Charles Turpin Estate; WSW of, Hermitage; Speyside, Bird of Paradise Inn; Charlotteville, 0.5 mi N and 0.75 mi E of, near lighthouse on peak above town; Merchiston, Jane Boyle property; Hillsborough Dam;  Crown Point Airport; Crown Point Airport, near, vicinity of Robinson Crusoe's Cave; Scarborough, E of, off Windward Road, Milepost 3.75; 0.5 km downstream from King's Bay Waterfall, King's Bay River; Tobago, W.I.  St. Giles Island.

Hatchlings have an SVL of about 35 mm, adults can reach an SVL of about 130 mm.

In mainland South America this gecko is primarily a canopy and tree-trunk dweller, but it will colonize buildings. It is most often seen around buildings because it is more visible than when it is on tree trunks or in the canopy.

In the eastern Amazon Vitt and Zani (1997). Found Thecadactylus in primary and secondary forest, but was mostly found in clearings in the western Amazon. Most individuals in the eastern Amazon were on trees while most of the individuals in the western sites were on human-made structures.

Biology: Vitt and Zani (1997) found most activity was recorded during early evening although a couple of individuals were observed active during the day. Both day active individuals were found on the shady side of tree trunks in the late afternoon. Inactive individuals were found under the bark of trees, in crevices in trees, or in bromeliads in the canopy. One individual disturbed from a bromeliad in the canopy approximately 30 m above ground jumped into the air, spread its legs, and parachuted about halfway to the ground. Two of its outstretched feet caught a large leaf on the way down, adhered to the leaf, and the gecko climbed on to the limb and disappeared within the tree.

Body temperatures of T. rapicauda varied from 24.8-28.6 C in the east and from 24.2-28.0 C (x = 26.4) in the west. Body temperatures were significantly correlated with substrate temperatures and air temperatures on the residuals of the body temperatures versus substrate temperature regression, there was no difference between eastern and western populations in body temperatures independent of substrate temperature. Mean body temperatures for all lizards combined was 26.9 C (range 24.2-28.6). Mean substrate and air temperatures for all lizards combined were 26.0 C (range 23.0- 28.4) and 25.8 C (range 23.1-28.4). An air or substrate temperature of 23 C appears necessary to initiate activity in T. rapicauda.

Juveniles and adults of Thecadactylus rapicauda are cryptically colored), matching the coloration of bark on the trunks of large trees. Tails of juveniles are black and white banded) at the tip.
 When juveniles raise their tails off the substrate when disturbed and the tail is waved back and forth.  Adults show a similar behavior but their tail tips are low in contrast. Tails of juveniles and adults that have not lost their tails are nearly cylindrical in cross section and taper from the base to the tip. Individuals of Thecadactylus appear to lose their tails near the tail base. Regenerated tails of adults are bulbous at the base (proximal) with their greatest diameter just posterior to the point of autotomy. Adults shed tails easily, often after pressing the tail against the hand of the collector. If the tail is a bulbous shaped regenerated tail, the entire regenerated portion of the tail is shed. Presumably most tails are lost during encounters with predators. However, tails appear to be lost during intense social encounters as well, two large males aggressively interacting apparently dropped its tail without any biting by the other male. I (JCM) have also seen males drop their tails when stressed during photographing.  Of 64 individuals examined, only 22 (34.4%) had not lost their tails at some point during their lives. Regenerated tails occurred on 64.6% of individuals.
Individuals examined by Vitt and Zani (1997) varied from 41-126 mm SVL and weighed 1.3-40.3 g. Sexually mature males varied from 95-125 mm SVL and weighed 15.8-33.4 g. Females varied from 93-126 mm SVL and weighed 17.2-40.3 g. Adult lizards were larger in the western Amazon than the east. Adult females were larger in SVL than males and overall, females appear to reach sexual maturity at a slightly larger size (about 90 mm) than males.
Thecadactylus from the eastern Amazon ate 19 different prey categories including a variety of orthopterans, beetles, and spiders. Two individuals had eaten their own shed skins. Thecadactylus from the western Amazon used only seven prey categories, and the diet consisted primarily of roaches. Mean prey size was considerably greater for western than for eastern Amazonian Thecadactylus and western Amazonian lizards ate a greater size range of prey based on individual prey volumes. With all data pooled (east and west Amazon), there was a significant relationship between mean prey volume/lizard and lizard SVL with lizard SVL explaining 26.5% of the variation in mean prey volume. There was also a significant relationship between lizard body size and the number of prey eaten, but lizard size only accounted for 7.2% of the variation in prey number. Lizards in the western Amazon ate larger prey independent of lizard body size.

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