Mokopirirakau cryptozoicus

Tākitimu gecko

Mokopirirakau cryptozoicus
(Jewell and Leschen, 2004)

Tākitimu gecko (Tony Jewell)
Image attribution
Tākitimu gecko. © Tony Jewell
Herpetofaunal category
NZ Geckos
Species complex
Conservation Status
Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable
Common names
Tākitimu gecko,
Takatimus gecko.

Length: SVL up to 87mm, with the tail being shorter than the body length

Weight: up to 18 grams

Description

A magnificent and highly elusive species of forest gecko with a snout-vent-length (SVL) up to 87 mm. Dorsal surface slate grey, dark brown or cream-grey with pale herringbone markings, that are often joined along the mid dorsal region, forming large transvers blotches and/or longitudinal stripes. Some individuals possess brilliant orange, red, or purple-grey blotches or spots. These often form dense aggregations and constitute a considerable portion of the overall dorsal surface colour. Dorsal patterns often edged black and continue down intact tail. Dark V-shaped marking present on top of head between eyes, similar to other Mokopirirakau, and also pale canthal stripe running from the nostril through the eye to the ear. Lateral surfaces similar in coloration to dorsal surface, sometimes with irregular blotches or spots the same colour as those seen on the dorsal surface. Both dorsal and lateral surfaces can bear dark speckles. Ventral surface typically mottled and pale grey or pale yellow-pink. Eye colour brown or pinkish. Interior of mouth bright orange with pink tongue, which sometimes has a diffuse grey tip. Intact tail typically shorter than body length (SVL). Soles of feet brown-orange (van Winkel et al. 2018; Jewell 2008; Jewell and Leschen 2004).

Life expectancy

Estimates for captive animals of the Mokopirirakau species complex range from 20-30 years (D. Keall, personal communication, September 21, 2016).

Distribution

Known from Western Otago and Southland. Found in the Tākitimu Mountains, Rees Valley, northern Richardson Mountains, and Waitutu Forest. A population was also recently discovered on Resolution Island (van Winkel et al. 2018; Jewell 2008; Jewell and Leschen 2004).

Ecology and habitat

Tākitimu geckos are primarily nocturnal or cathemeral and may cryptically bask. This species is highly saxicolous and terrestrial. Tākitimu geckos inhabit alpine/subalpine creviced bluffs, screes (particularly those with vegetation in the middle or on the periphery), and rock outcrops. This species has also been found in mature beech and podocarp/hardwood forest. Tākitimu geckos exist from lowland areas up to 1450m (Jewell and Leschen 2004). 

Social structure

Like other Mokopirirakau species, Tākitimu geckos are thought to be relatively solitary. 

Breeding biology

Largely unknown, but, like other alpine geckos, probably breed biennially. A gravid female bearing two embryos has been recorded in January (van Winkel et al. 2018)

Diet

Consumes various invertebrates such as moths, flies, spiders, beetles and may consume the fruit and nectar of native plants.

Disease

Largely unknown.

Conservation

DOC classify the species as 'nationally vulnerable' (Hitchmough et al. 2016). Although there are very few records of Tākitimu geckos, the species appear to be relatively widespread and have been found in a range of habitats. Accordingly, the species numbers are possibly reflective of their extremely cryptic and elusive nature, rather than low numbers. Like many other New Zealand lizards, they probably have been impacted severely by habitat modification and introduced mammalian predators. Knowledge of this species may be improved by undertaking long-term monitoring and surveys to find populations elsewhere. Because this species is seldom-seen and often very remote, it is especially important that this species is periodically "checked up" on. 

Interesting notes

Tākitimu geckos are very closely related to the cloudy gecko (Mokopirirakau nebulosus) from Stewart Island (Chapple and Hitchmough 2016; Nielsen et al. 2011).

References

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. (2008). A photographic guide to reptiles and amphibians of New Zealand. Auckland: New Holland Publishers.

Jewell, T. R., & Leschen, R. A. (2004). A new species of Hoplodactylus (Reptilia: Pygopodidae) from the Takitimu Mountains, South Island, New Zealand. Zootaxa, 792(1), 1-11.

Nielsen, S.V., Bauer, A.M., Jackman, T.R., Hitchmough, R.A., & Daugherty, C.H. (2011). New Zealand geckos (Diplodactylidae): cryptic diversity in a post-Gondwanan lineage with trans-Tasman affinities. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 59, 1–2.

van Winkel, D., Baling, M., Hitchmough, R. (2018). Reptiles and amphibians of New Zealand – a field guide. Auckland university press, Auckland New Zealand.