Leopard geckos have the ability to voluntarily detach their tails if it is attacked, grabbed by the tail, bitten during copulation, or nipped by another during feeding. This is called caudal autotomy. After autotomy the tail can continue to twitch for as long as 30 minutes, allowing the gecko to escape from its predator.
At the EcoTarium
The EcoTarium is home to a variety of lizards. You can find two of our Leopard Geckos, Echo (female) and Polka (male), living in the Thinking Globally exhibit on the museum's middle level.
By special appearance only: some of our lizards are not on exhibit but can be seen during our programs. The EcoTarium has two male Bearded Dragons: Edgar and Jack, a male Blue-tongued Skink named Rango, and a male Argentine Tegu named Pablo.
Lizards are a large group of diverse, scaly reptiles with four legs and external ears. They range in size from an inch to over nine feet long! Some can detach and later regrow their tails to escape or confuse predators, but not all. Some lizards lay eggs, while others give birth to live young like mammals do. Lizards can be plant-eating (herbivorous), meat-eating (carnivorous), or both (omnivorous). Only the largest of the lizards can be dangerous to humans, but many have sharp bites or spines.
Lizards are ectothermic, or cold-blooded. This means that the temperature of the environment affects their activity level. Lizards go dormant in the cold, for example. To warm up, lizards bask in the sun or lie on warm rocks. This is why lizards are most active during the day, when it is warmest. Most lizards have good eyesight and communicate with body language and colors. Most lizards also live on land, but some have adapted to living in trees or swimming.
Leopard Geckos live in the rocky, dry grassland and desert regions of the Middle East. Leopard geckos feed on crickets, waxworms, mealworms, super worms, and other insects.When food is scarce in the desert, they can rely on their ability to store excess fat in their tails. Along with their exceptional sight and hearing abilities, their skin helps camouflage themselves from their predators. The shedding of their skin also removes any scent markers left behind for potential predators to discover.
Bearded Dragons live in dry habitats with very little vegetation to eat. They are omnivorous, mostly eating the leafy greens they can find and insects. When threatened, they inflate a pouch on their throat; they were named for the resemblance of the pouch to a beard. Bearded dragons will lift their front leg and wave it to show submission to a larger individual.
The Argentine Tegu prefers to live along rivers and streams in the jungle, but also inhabits the savannah and semi-deserts of east and central South America. Tegus are opportunistic feeders and natural scavengers, and have a varied diet that includes prey and vegetation such as insects, mice, frogs, fruit, and turtle hatchlings. They are active during the day and like to burrow, but are also capable swimmers.