Length: SVL up to 165mm, with the tail being equal to or shorter than the body length
Weight: up to 118 grams
A physically robust species with a thick head, large trunk and tail. The largest of New Zealand’s geckos reaching up to 160mm in snout-to-vent length, and around 30cm in total. The back is olive brown to olive green with pale and irregular crossbar shaped splotches down the back, usually from the nape of the neck to the base of the tail. The underside is paler than the back, usually a pale uniform grey but can be softly blotched. Duvaucel’s gecko have a pink mouth and tongue. The forehead is slightly concave with yellow eyes and large oval openings for the ears.
Duvaucel’s gecko have a high number of lamallae on the feet with long toes (lamallae are a structure on the footpads which allow adhesion onto surfaces). Cloacal spurs (an outgrowth of bone and enlarged scales serving primarily as a grip during mating) are arranged in a series of 3-4, with pre-cloacal and femoral pores extending in a narrow series along the underside of the thighs.
There are significant genetic and morphological differences between the northern (Bay of Plenty northwards) and southern (Cook Strait) populations. These two populations are likely to be described as separate species in future: Animals from northern populations are generally larger (110-161mm SVL), more robust, have a proportionaltely longer snout, and less-defined markings. Individuals from the southern populations are generally smaller (95-120mm SVL), have a proportionately shorter snout, distinctive 'eyebrow' of scales above the eye, and well-defined blotched markings. Infralabial scales become gradually smaller in northern animals versus abruptly smaller after the 4th infralabial in southern animals. Brillar fold (hood of scales above the eye) is more pronounced in southern individuals.
Vocalisation of Duvaucel’s gecko has been variously described as squeaks, squeals, croaking and coughing.
Duvaucel’s gecko are an extremely long lived species with ages of over 50 years reported.
Duvaucel’s gecko were once widespread throughout New Zealand as far south as Otago. Unfortunately due to the impact of human settlement and the introduction of predatory mammals, the species are now restricted to 36 offshore islands along the east coast and in the Cook Strait. They inhabit forests, bluffs, cliffs, and coastlines in lowland areas.
Ecology and habitat
A largely nocturnal species, Duvaucel’s gecko can remain active at low temperatures but actively regulate their body temperature by sun basking. During the day they tend to hide in tree hollows, under logs, stones or bark, rock crevices or petrel burrows.
Duvaucel’s gecko are tolerant of members of the same species and form social groups of 2-8, groups usually contain only one male.
Duvaucel’s gecko give birth to live young and have a low annual reproductive output. Gestation has been variously reported as between 5 months to longer than a year. Individuals become sexually mature at about 7 years old.
The diet of Duvaucel’s gecko is largely insectivorous, however, they will also eat plant material, nectar, and fruit. There are records of Duvaucel’s gecko predating upon other lizards and the eggs of shearwaters.
Duvaucel’s gecko harbour a number of ecto and endoparasites (internal and external). It is important to note that healthy reptiles can host a number of parasites with no observable adverse effects on the health of the animal, however, in certain cases parasitism can lead to vomiting, weight loss, tissue damage, secondary bacterial infection, or in serious cases anaemia or dysecdysis (difficulty sloughing skin).
Duvaucel’s gecko are at risk of metabolic bone disease (MBD) when held in captivity. It is crucial that animals in captivity have access to enough UV light and certain minerals (refer to our health and husbandry section for more information).
DOC (the NZ Department of Conservation) have classified Duvaucel’s gecko as ‘relict’, with a population of >20,000 mature individuals and a stable or increasing population (>10%). A number of translocation projects have already taken place to establish populations of Duvaucel’s gecko on pest free off shore islands and one mainland sanctuary. There is also a breed for release programme in place.
The species were erroneously named after Alfred Duvaucel, a French naturalist who explored India. Museum specimens taken to London were credited to him, only later were the animals found to have come from New Zealand.
Barry, M. (2011). Shelter aggregations, social behaviour, and seasonal plasma corticosterone levels in captive and wild Duvaucel’s geckos, Hoplodactylus duvaucelii. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Massey University: Auckland, New Zealand.
Fischer, S, M. (2013). Conservation biology and wildlife management in New Zealand: endemic reptile species, urban avifauna, and wetland ecology. Unpublished BSc honours dissertation. Massey University: Auckland, New Zealand.
Gill, B., & Whitaker, T. (2007). New Zealand frogs and reptiles. Auckland: David Bateman Limited.
Hitchmough, R.A., Barr, B., Lettink, M., Monks, J., Reardon, J., Tocher, M., van Winkel, D., Rolfe, J. (2016). Conservation status of New Zealand reptiles, 2015; New Zealand threat classification series 17. Wellington: New Zealand Department of Conservation.
Jewell, T. (2011). A photographic guide to reptiles and amphibians of New Zealand. Auckland: New Holland Publishers.
McCann, C. (1955). The lizards of New Zealand. Dominion Museum Bulletin, 17, 1-127.
van Winkel, D. (2008). Efficiency of techniques for post-translocation monitoring of Duvaucel’s gecko (Hoplodactylus duvaucelii) and evidence of native avian predation on lizards. Unpublished master’s dissertation. Massey University: Auckland, New Zealand