Mokopirirakau "Roys Peak"

Orange-spotted gecko

Mokopirirakau "Roys Peak"

Orange-spotted geckos (Crown Range, Otago). <a href="https://www.instagram.com/nickharker.nz/">© Nick Harker</a> (top), <a href="https://www.instagram.com/samanimalman/">© Samuel Purdie</a> (middle and bottom images).
Image attribution
Orange-spotted geckos (Crown Range, Otago). © Nick Harker (top), © Samuel Purdie (middle and bottom images).
Herpetofaunal category
NZ Geckos
Species complex
Conservation Status
Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable
Common names
Orange-spotted gecko,
Roys Peak gecko.

Length: SVL up to 95mm, with the tail being equal to or shorter than the body length

Weight: unknown

Description

A gorgeous species of forest gecko known from the subalpine/alpine zone with an SVL up to 95 mm. Dorsal surface grey, grey-brown, olive-brown, rusty orange, or pinkish orange with pale blotches, transverse bands, or dorsolateral stripes, which are often edged dark brown or black. Dorsal surface often overlaid with irregular orange, black, brown, or white blotches or spots. A distinctive V-shape marking is typically present on the head behind the eyes. Lateral surfaces typically grey, grey-brown, olive-brown, rusty orange, or pinkish orange, often with pale blotches or dark speckles. The lower portion of the lateral surface is often a more pale grey colour. Ventral surface typically grey or pale orange, often with dark speckles. Interior of mouth and tongue bright orange (van Winkel et al. 2018; Jewell 2008). 

Life expectancy

Unknown

Distribution

Known from mountainous areas within Central and West Otago such as the Richardson Mountains, Crown Range, Hector Mountains, Dunstan Mountains, Harris Mountains. 

Ecology and habitat

Orange-spotted geckos are currently only known from subalpine areas 1100-1800 metres a.s.l. They inhabit boulderfield, tallus, rocky herbfield, rocky tussockland, scree slopes, and rock outcrops. This species is thought to be primarily nocturnal, however, diurnal behavior, such as basking, has been observed (Bertoia et al. 2021). Interestingly, orange-spotted geckos are remarkably cold-tolerant and have been observed emergent on nights with sub-zero temperatures. Despite this, they appear to retain similar body temperatures to lowland gecko species during the summer months (Bertoia et al. 2021). This, paired with a handful of potential low-elevation sightings of this species may indicate that orange-spotted geckos once occurred in lowland habitat. Additionally, the closest relative of the orange-spotted gecko is the Tautuku gecko (Mokopirirakau "southern forest") (Neilsen et al. 2011), which is a lowland forest dwelling species. It is possible that orange-spotted geckos still exists in beech forest, as this species is highly cryptic and no reliable survey method has been developed for mature beech forest. 

Social structure

Orange-spotted geckos appear to be fairly solitary, however, sometimes pairs of individuals are found together.

Breeding biology

Orange-spotted gecko reproduce biennially, giving birth to one or two live offspring in October/November.

Diet

Largely unknown, likely to be similar to other Mokopirirakau species (invertebrates, fruit and nectar).

Disease

Largely unknown.

Conservation

DOC classify the species as 'nationally vulnerable'. Accordingly, extensive monitoring has been undertaken in an attempt to learn more about this species. Orange-spotted geckos do not appear to be at any immediate risk of extinction, and although it is possible that their known habitat is relictual, the species is still relatively widespread. 

References

Bertoia, A., Monks, J., Knox, C., & Cree, A. (2021). A nocturnally foraging gecko of the high-latitude alpine zone: Extreme tolerance of cold nights, with cryptic basking by day. Journal of Thermal Biology99, 102957.

Jewell, T. 2008. A photographic guide to reptiles and amphibians of New Zealand. Auckland: New Holland.

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 Evolution59(1), 1-22.

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