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Geckos: Tails to Toepads

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Geckos: Tails to Toepads photo
Megan Seldon/National Geographic

Editorial Review

National Geographic Museum exhibits 'Geckos: From Tails to Toepads'

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The first thing Colin Walker does every morning is count the geckos.

And this particular morning, he is coming up one short. One skunk gecko, to be precise. He eventually spies its dark head poking out between two branches in the habitat it shares with four other skunk geckos.

"But, man, I was getting worried," says the zookeeper responsible for the 80 to 90 animals on display as part of the "Geckos: From Tails to Toepads" exhibit at the National Geographic Museum in Washington.

Escaping geckos is a very real concern. "You can open a habitat to water the plants and one can scoot out. They're quick. Or a little one could land on your shirt and you could be walking around wearing a gecko and you might never know it," Walker explains.

The exhibit is part scavenger hunt, part interactive adventure. It features creatures that are creepy-crawly gross and stunning in their beauty. Mostly, it's as much fun as any kid (or kid at heart) could ever expect to have in a museum. KidsPost's Tracy Grant spent a recent morning with the geckos, and here's some -- just some, mind you -- of what she uncovered.

Bet you didn't know

-- Geckos clean their eyes by licking them with their tongues -- just like windshield wipers!

-- Geckos live on every continent except Antarctica. There's even a gecko population in Baltimore.

-- There are more than 1,250 species of geckos.

-- Geckos shed their skin and tails as a way to escape predators. When tails grow back, they are a different color.

-- Geckos put Spider-Man to shame with their ability to stick to buildings. They can do this because each toe is covered with tiny hairs, and each hair has a flattened tip called a spatula that allows geckos to cling to surfaces. Each gecko toe has up to 50 million spatulae.

Not to be missed

-- Satanic leaf-tailed gecko: Red eyes, little horns and a tail that looks like something your parents are asking you to rake.

-- Gliding geckos: These lizards are in a habitat at the back of the exhibit. Check out the four gliding gecko eggs sticking to the glass. They'll probably hatch while the exhibit is in Washington.

-- Try to find three giant leaf-tailed geckos and three lined leaf-tailed geckos at the back of the exhibit. Hint: The lined ones like the bamboo.

Gecko care and feeding

-- Most geckos are fed every four days.

-- They eat live crickets.

-- Some day geckos also eat baby food and nectar.


-- If you don't see the animals in the habitat, look up. They sometimes hang out (literally) at the top of the enclosure near the warmth of the lights.

-- Don't miss the interactive stations where you can build a gecko, hear gecko sounds and spot geckos in the wild.

-- There's a gecko feeding at 2 p.m. daily.

-- Tracy Grant