• Lepidodactylus gardineri

The Rotuman forest gecko is a medium sized, moderately stocky gecko, with adults growing up to a maximum snout vent length of 53mm.
Also known as: Rotuman Forest Gecko
Local Names:

Description

The Rotuman forest gecko is a medium sized, moderately stocky gecko, with adults growing up to a maximum snout-vent length of 53mm.  The size of hatchlings is unknown. The length of the tail is slightly less than the SVL; males and females are equal in size. The head of the Rotuman forest gecko is moderate in size and is distinct from the neck. Like other geckoes, the skin on the body is soft, is easily torn, upon capture they can lose their tail which later regenerates, and they have an immovable lower eyelid. As is the case for all other geckoes in Fiji with the exception of the skink toed gecko, Nactus pelagicus, each toe digit of the Rotuman forest gecko has enlarged ventral pads. Upon first capture, the Rotuman forest gecko is uniformly dark brown dorsally and laterally, and bright yellow ventrally. This then rapidly changes, lightening to a mottled black on a greyish olive background, or to a uniform grey colour; the head becomes darker than the body. They have a black tongue and buccal cavity.

Distribution

This gecko is only on the island of Rotuma, within the the secondary growth forest.

Habitat Ecology and Behaviour

This Rotuman endemic is highly arboreal, and lives beneath the bark of a tree, or within termite galleries of dead tree branches. Vacant termite galleries in the tree Acalypha grandis appears to be the preferred habitat. The Rotuman forest geckoes prefer to live in a dry microhabitat, in colonies of two to five individuals.

Based on George Zug’s survey in 1987, it is assumed that the Rotuman forest gecko is a nocturnal species, probably feeding on the surface at night. Zug never observed them on the surface during his diurnal surveys, finding them beneath bark or in vacant termite galleries. His nocturnal surveys were too limited to confirm their behaviour.

The males of this species probably mature for sexual reproduction at 48-49 mm SVL. A 51.5 mm SVL female that was observed during Zug’s survey had oviducal eggs, and bore two spherical eggs, 8mm in diameter. There is limited ecological information available on this species, particularly on its interspecific relationship, and requires a more detailed, long term study.

Threats

The strong association the Rotuman forest gecko has with the plant Acalypha grandis suggests that this gecko’s survival is dependent on the persistence of secondary forest on Rotuma. We can also assume that introduced mammals such as feral cats (Felis catus) and the Small Indian Mongoose (Herpestes javanicus) are possible predators. Furthermore, any threat to the secondary forest also poses a threat to Rotuma’s only endemic gecko.

Conservation Status

While there are community environmental awareness programs being conducted on Rotuma by the LäjeRotuma Initiative, much of their conservation and assessment programs are currently directed at the marine resources. The last terrestrial reptile survey conducted on Rotuma was that by Zug et al. (1988). Since then no assessment or conservation program for the lizards, including the endemic Rotuman forest gecko has been conducted. Thus the conservation status of this gecko remains poorly known.

Remarks and Cultural Significance

While there are community environmental awareness programs being conducted on Rotuma by the LäjeRotuma Initiative, much of their conservation and assessment programs are currently directed at the marine resources. The last terrestrial reptile survey conducted on Rotuma was that by Zug et al. (1988). Since then no assessment or conservation program for the lizards, including the endemic Rotuman forest gecko has been conducted. Thus the conservation status of this gecko remains poorly known.

References

Fiu M (LäjeRotuma Initiative; personal communication);
Morrison (2003);
Zug et al. (1988);
Zug (1991)

Front Page Photo: Paddy Ryan
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