Naultinus stellatus

Starred gecko

Naultinus stellatus
(Hutton, 1872)

Starred geckos. <a href="https://www.instagram.com/nickharker.nz/">© Nick Harker</a>.
Image attribution
Starred geckos. © Nick Harker.
Herpetofaunal category
NZ Geckos
Species complex
Conservation Status
Threatened - Nationally Vulnerable
Previous scientific names
Heteropholis stellatus,
Naultinus elegans stellatus,
Naultinus pulcherrimus.
Common names
Starred gecko
, Nelson green gecko,
Starry tree gecko.

Length: SVL up to 81mm, with the tail being equal to or slightly longer than the body length

Weight: unknown

Description

A beautiful species of green gecko from the north-western South Island. Starred geckos are highly variable in pattern and colour across their range.

Dorsal (upper) surfaces are bright to dark olive green and either unmarked or with rows of large transverse splotches which are white, light green or grey brown and sometimes outlined with fine black lines. Ventral (lower) surfaces light grey or brown with pale streaks or stripes. Individuals from the Nelson Lakes area often sport grey or chocolate brown ‘background’ colours with green markings. Young are born dark green with white markings, but change to their adult colouration at 18 months to two years of age. Lining of mouth dark blue/purple; tongue pink/olive at tip and dark grey at base. Eyes are orange/brown or light to dark olive, pupils sometimes have pale border. Nelson green gecko reach SVL (snout-vent-lengths) of up to 80mm.

Individuals from some locations may be similar in appearance to West Coast green geckos (Naultinus tuberculatus), but are geographically separated, and can be distinguished by a pink / red tongue (versus blue/black tongue in N. tuberculatus). Individuals from the Maitai area near Nelson show evidence of past hybridisation with Marlborough green geckos (Naultinus manukanus).

Click here for information on how starred gecko differ in appearance from other species in the Naultinus group.

Life expectancy

One starred gecko was reported to have reached the age of 47 years in captivity (H. Pukloswki pers. comm. in Hare et al. (2007).

Distribution

Northwest South Island: Nelson province from Bryant Range to the western coast.

Ecology and habitat

Starred gecko are diurnal (active during the day) are arboreal (tree dwelling), inhabiting scrubland and forested areas, in particular occupying the foliage of trees and shrubs, including manuka and kanuka trees.

All green geckos have prehensile tails which act as a climbing aid.

Social structure

All green gecko species are solitary and can often be aggressively territorial. In captive group situations green geckos can often display aggressive behaviour, particularly biting, towards conspecifics (particularly aggression between males as a result of competition for mates). Green geckos will also display aggressive behaviour if threatened; this consists of mouth gaping, biting, lunging, and vocalisation (a barking sound).

Breeding biology

All New Zealand geckos are viviparous, giving birth to one or two live young. Sexual maturity is reached between one and two years.

Some keepers have noticed that green geckos in captivity appear to express ‘choice’ as to when to mate and reproduce according to conditions (D. Keall, personal communication, September 22, 2016). Wild starred gecko give birth in late summer through to autumn. Captive geckos typically give birth in April/May.

Diet

The diet of starred geckos is omnivorous, and consists primarily of invertebrates such as flies, beetles, spiders and moths. Green geckos are generally ‘sit and wait’ predators for invertebrates, however will forage for soft berries and nectar from native flowers within their home range.

Disease

The nematode Skrjabinodon poicilandri has been recorded in starred gecko. A captive starred gecko was reported to have died as a result of an infestation of blowfly maggots (which entered via the ear).

Conservation status

DOC classify the species as 'nationally vulnerable' with a population of 20,000 - 10,000 mature individuals and a predicted decline of 50-70%.

References

Gill, B.J., & Whitaker, A.H. (1996). 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 Ltd.

Nielson , S.V., Bauer, A.M., Jackman, T.R., Hitchmough, R.A., & Daugherty, C.H. (2011). New Zealand geckos (Diplodactylae): Cryptic diversity in a post-Gondwanan lineage with trans-Tasman affinities. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 59, 1, 1-22.

Robb, J. (1980). New Zealand amphibians and reptiles in colour. Auckland, New Zealand: Collins.