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Crested geckos are a species of reptile native to the islands of New Caledonia; a territory of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean. They are scientifically classified as Rhacodactylus ciliates and are also commonly referred to as the New Caledonian eyelash gecko. Once thought to be extinct, this peculiar species was rediscovered in 1994 on the Isle of Pines following a tropical storm. Some of these newly-found reptiles were transported to Europe and North America to begin a captive breeding program. The Rhacodactylus genus of geckos also includes the gargoyle gecko, giant gecko, and mossy prehensile-tailed gecko, all of which are also native to New Caldeonia.
At adulthood, crested geckos reach approximately 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) in length, about half of that length being the gecko’s tail. In the wild, their skin color varies and new variations have also been created by breeders that are referred to as “morphs.” The more popular colors for pet owners are red and orange, and pattern variations such as harlequin and brindle are also available. The crested gecko’s most unique feature is the crested scales that form above its eyes and extend down the gecko’s neck, thus lending to this reptile’s alternate name — eyelash gecko.
It is common to see wild adult crested geckos lacking a tail. This species will extract its tail when it feels threatened, but, unlike its close relatives, it cannot regenerate a new tail. This is a common defense mechanism used by some reptiles and amphibians, such as skinks and salamanders. The tail will break off and wriggle on the ground for several minutes, which distracts the predator thus giving the gecko time to escape.
Exportation of crested geckos from New Caledonia is prohibited; however, they can be acquired from captive breeders and have become one of the more popular gecko species to keep as pet lizards. Crested geckos are prolific breeders with thousands of new crested geckos born in captivity annually. With proper care, the lifespan of captive crested geckos should exceed 15 years.
Since their rediscovery, the crested gecko has become popular as an exotic pet. Compared to most other reptiles, crested geckos have a docile personality and they are easy keepers. Their requirements include appropriate housing and a sustainable diet. Their captive homes have specific heating and lighting requirements, which should be furnished adequately and cleaned regularly. The diet of pet crested geckos is typical reptile fare such as crickets and mealworms, along with commercial foods and fruits in addition to a calcium supplement.
MBD is the most common health issue affecting crested geckos which can be prevented with proper nutrition and supplementation. Most lizards are susceptible to metabolic bone disease (MBD) caused by insufficient calcium intake. Lizards like the crested gecko are provided vitamin D3 which allows them to absorb calcium from the foods that they eat. Vitamin D3 is often provided to captive lizards from a supplement or an UVB light source.