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Tokay Gecko


Latin Synonyms:

Lacerta Gecko LINNAEUS 1758: 205
Gekko verticellatus LAURENTI 1768 (fide TAYLOR 1963)
Gekko teres LAURENTI 1768
Gekko aculeatus HOUTTUYN 1782 (non Gecko aculeatus SPIX 1825)
Gekko perlatus HOUTTUYN 1782
Gekko guttatus DAUDIN 1802
Gekko verus MERREM 1820: 42
Gekko annulatus KUHL 1820: 132
Gecko Reevesii GRAY 1831
Platydactylus guttatus — DUMÉRIL & BIBRON 1836: 328
Gekko tenuis [HALLOWELL 1857]
Gekko indicus [GIRARD 1858]
Gymnodactylus tenuis HALLOWELL 1856 — BOULENGER 1885: 22
Gecko verticillatus [sic] — BOULENGER 1885: 183
Gecko verticillatus [sic] — BOULENGER 1894: 82
Gekko gecko — BARBOUR 1912
Gecko verticillatus — DE ROOIJ 1915: 56
Gekko gecko — TAYLOR 1963: 799
Gekko gecko — KLUGE 1993
Gekko gecko — RÖSLER 1995: 120
Gekko gecko — MANTHEY & GROSSMANN 1997: 231
Gekko gecko — COX et al. 1998: 82
Gekko gecko — ZIEGLER 2002: 165


Published notes on family Gekkoninae:


The Gekkonines are the most successful of the Geckos, with a circumtropical distribution and more than 50 genera. Females characteristically lay two eggs. The eggs tend to be spherical, and possess a hard, calcareous shell. The shell appears to be an adaptation to prevent water loss; the eggs also have a higher resistance to decay than the parchment type eggs of Geckos from Dipldactylidae and Eublepharidae.

(Goin, Goin & Zug, 1978)

Published and recognised distribution range:


North Eastern India & Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Indochina, Southern China, Malaysia, Malaysian Archipelago, Indonesia, Philippines, Sulu Archipelago and East Australasian Archipelago.

(Hermann Seufer 1995)


This species has also been introduced to Florida, Hawaii, Martinique and Belize and is considered an invasive species.




*All of my current collection of aberrant Tokay Geckos have been shipped from Indonesia as Wild Caught adults or young adults.

Range of The Tokay Gecko
Copyright University of Texas Libraries

Published and recognised habitat & distribution:


This species is truly adaptable; originally a creature of the forest a noted swing to human habitations has been seen. Tokay Geckos in South East Asia particularly are seen as harbingers of luck, fortune and fertility. It is said in Thailand if you buy a house and you do not hear “too-kayy” on the first night then you must sell it as you will have no luck staying there, this is how revered this species is. This has obvious benefits for the species as potential predators are removed or killed within the home and the geckos have a captive audience of insects drawn to the waste and foodstuffs created by the welcoming humans. On the face of it this arrangement seems to benefit everyone involved, humans residents don’t get eaten alive by mosquitoes and other irritant insects, and the humans protect the Tokays and remove naturally occurring predation.


It must be understood however that the Tokay Gecko does not enjoy this level of protection from humans throughout their range. It is collected in China for medicinal purposes. The body after being eviscerated is stretched out and pinned out for drying, and these can been seen throughout the country although their range in China is limited to the South. The whole body is used in medicine but the tail is thought to be particularly useful in the treatment of tuberculosis.

(Zhao & Adler, 1993)


When located in the rainforest during the day they will be hidden in rotten hollow tree limbs of behind loose pieces of bark. Being strictly nocturnal this would make them almost impossible to find during daylight without a large quantity of luck. To further aid the blending process many authors list the ability to change shade and depth of colour to blend into surroundings.


In houses, shops and restaurants Tokay Geckos would be located within the rafters, floor boards of meeting floors and in the roof cavity itself. They actively hunt at night as they hunt insects drawn in by the lights and smell of food and garbage.  Tokays have learnt they will not be bothered by humans as they require their extermination powers. As a result in an evening they will hunt with almost reckless abandon, obviously standing out against the white washed ceilings.


* What has still to be established is where the colour morph Tokay geckos are caught, are they forest animals or are they human habitation animals. It would make more sense if they were from human habitations through lack of predation, higher populous within a given area and a sped up birth/reproduction cycle. It could also be the case that relations who have developed heterozygotic traits are more likely to subsequently reproduce and therefore expose a homozygotic colour change than in the forest where their camouflage would be seriously diminished increasing their chances of predation. It has also been suggested although with no evidence to corroborate that the colour morphs Tokays may be separate sub-species or totally separate species. This I feel seems unfounded and although mentioned here merely out of interest I would disregard it until evidence/ research is forth-coming.

Tokay Bodies for use in Chinese medicine

Published and recognised description (wild type):


This is the largest member of the Gekko family with an overall adult size of 280mm-340mm. Females are smaller at around 220-270mm. They are powerfully built animals with very agile and muscular legs, a well defined and immensely powerful head and jaw and undivided toes lined with lamellae. The tail is thick set and not obviously prehensile, possibly due to the incredible efficiency of the feet.  The tail like the body but to a greater degree is covered with conical protrusions. The conical protrusions are larger either side of the cloacal opening, being larger in males (although this could simply be attributed to the overall larger size of the male.) Colouration of normal –wild type Tokays is highly variable dependant upon time of day captured and location captured. Most normal Tokays in the pet trade have a base colour ranging from dark blue, light blue, grey to almost silver to almost black. Various pale brown, orange through to red dots appear on the body as well as slightly lighter blue small dots inter-dispersed apparently randomly. Like many geckos Tokays go through an ontogenetic change from being neatly banded to randomly dotted (not dissimilar to Leopard Geckos – Eublepharis Macularius). The previously mentioned random light blue dots play a part in the original banding helping to break up the darker base colour of neonates.

Normal Tokay Gecko
Copyright unknown

Descriptions of current colour morphs experienced:

Powder Blue:

Powder blue is by far one of the most popular of the colour morphs it is also one of the most common. The base colour is a light blue with the tips of the tubercular scales being lighter still. There is no pattern to speak of. Eyes are golden with brown veins. Throat is pigmented. Belly has a slightly more yellow blue appearance than the trunk. When cool/unexcited colours are far darker almost approaching dark grey, tubercular scales still have a lighter hue in this state.

Powder Blue Tokay Gecko
Photograph: Charles Thompson

Blue Headed Green:

Blue headed green is another relatively common colour morphs of Tokay. The base colour of the head is the same as for powder blue yet at the collar the colour changes to a pastel green. Tubercular scales on trunk are the same colour as the head. There is no pattern to speak of. Eyes are golden with brown veins. Throat is pigmented. Belly has a more yellow hue and this yellow is stronger than seen in the belly of Powder Blues. When cool/unexcited colours are very dark green and on occasion almost black, tubercular scales still show lighter hues even when in this state.

Blue headed green Tokay Gecko
Photograph: Charles Thompson

Blue Granite:

Blue Granite is just a name the author has given this male and it seems to fit. The base colour is a light-ish blue green with lighter blue cross bars including intersected tubercular scales. Speckling on the head is lighter than the body being an almost grey purple. These speckles and dots seem to have a golden outline which is most fetching. On the trunk the colours present in varying degrees are hues of light blue, green/blue and yellows. The largest spots seem to be arranged in loose rows with smaller dots loosely around them. The largest spots centre on tubercular scales but spread out past the base of the scale where it meets the rest of the trunk skin. Legs take on a more greenish/yellow hue and the belly is still blue. Eyes are Grey/blue with darker veins, pupil has a light blue/white outline. The throat is pigmented. When cool/unexcited most traces of blue are lost and the overall colour is grey with black blotches, the tail is also black. Unlike the two previously mentioned morphs instead of the tubercular trunk scales being lighter than the body on Blue Granites they are much darker.   

Blue Granite Tokay Gecko
Photograph: Charles Thompson

Blue & Green/Yellow Granite:

In the authors personal opinion the Blue & Green/Yellow Granite is one of the most attractive geckoes he has ever seen. This is the name that this morph arrived with although the author has some doubt as to whether it is indeed granite as granites seem to have darker and on occasion black spots which this morph is totally devoid of. Base colour is either green or yellow dependant upon mood and time of day. Feet are always yellow with blue dots.  On the trunk blue saddles are prominent which are edged by turquoise dots. The head pattern is paler with a more blue overall hue. The belly is green/yellow with sporadic blue speckling. Eyes are gold with brown veins. The throat lacks pigment. When cool/unexcited the overall colour is much darker with no sign of the beauty beneath.

Blue & green/yellow Granite Tokay Gecko
Photograph: Charles Thompson

Blue & Orange Granite:

This female was bought as a granite but is totally different to the blue granite male. The head base colour is blue with orange dots lines with a deep lichen green. The body base colour however is grey through to lichen green dependant upon mood/temperature. Tubercular scales on the body are either coloured a rusty orange or light blue, making the pattern of this granite female particularly busy. The belly is blue with sporadic orange speckles. Eyes are gold with brown veins. The throat is pigmented. When cool/unexcited this lizard is very drab with none of the mixtures of colour mentioned above.

Blue & Orange Granite Tokay Gecko
Photograph: Charles Thompson

Blue Granite Calico:

Either termed blue calico or blue granite calico either way this female is very interesting. This female was bought as a standard calico but from the picture it becomes rather obvious she is not. Head markings are standard for calicos in that she has an apricot head, but that is where the similarity ends. The body is a deep blue with lighter watercolour wash of light blue. Sporadic very small orange spots are present. Belly is blue with small orange freckles. Eyes are black with some silvery/white detail, pupil is black. Throat lacks pigment. Cool/unexcited colours are very drab, the full body goes very dark grey almost approaching black. The unexcited colours were retained up until a few weeks ago after a period of some three months settling in period.

Blue Granite Calico Tokay Gecko
Photograph: Charles Thompson


It is quite clear that I have two different types of Calico, what may well be the case is the resounding differences surrounding the two normal Calicos. The one pictured is the female. Each calico obviously has differing amounts of pigmentation as pigmentation is lost through time and there is discussion suggesting that most calicos will become leucistics if given enough time. The author has seen young adult leucistics though and that seems strange if the process is solely a time thing or again whether there are two differing types. There seems little point in discussing patternation due to variablility apart from the fact that calicos usually have an apricot head, black eyes with silver veining and varying black grey patches.

Calico Tokay Gecko
Photograph: Charles Thompson


Hypomelanistic Tokay Geckos usually arrive graded A,B,C. A being the best coloured. The female pictured is an A grade Hypo, where as the male came in as a C grade. The difference is marked and whilst it is apparent the male is not normal, I’m not sure he is a hypo either. Description on such a sliding scale is difficult. The female in my possession has a lilac head with vivid orange spots, the body however has a pastel lavender base colour and the orange dots loose the intensity seen on the head. Occasional lighter blue flecks appear and seem to congregate down the centre of the dorsal area. The eyes are gold with light brown veining. The throat in the female lacks pigments whilst the male has pigment.

Hypomelanistic Tokay Gecko
Photograph: Charles Thompson

Patternless Axanthic:

This is the authors opinion is one of the most interesting morphs here whilst not necessarily being the most eyes catching. The Patternless Axanthic was sold to the author as a C grade Axanthic but it has become quite apparent she is any thing but! The body has grey/brown flecks which look to be receding leaving an apricot/white colour. The body looks to have blushing from the belly half way up the flanks. The dorsal colour is a very faded light brown wash, the lower flanks and belly colour is porcelain white. The legs and feet are also white. The eyes are black and the throat lacks pigment. This could well be either a Patternless calico or an Axanthic calico, but time will tell to see if the white spreads further.

Patternless Axanthic Tokay Gecko
Photograph: Charles Thompson

Published and recognised communicative skills of Geckos:


Most lizards can detect airborne sounds, but only the nocturnal geckos from the subfamily Gekkoninae regularly use acoustic signals for communication. Geckos are unique in the lizard world in that they have vocal cords and as such can produce more complex sounds than hisses and gasps.

(Marcellini, 1977)


Males vocalise a territory and these are termed multi-chirp calls. These calls can be directed at specific males or females but are also given spontaneously as well. Sub-ordinate males move away from recordings of multi-chirp calls yet no response was elicited from females (the reproductive state of the females in question was not ascertained so the experiment does not necessarily show that the calls are not attractive to females. It is assumed that in fact they are.)

(Pough, 2001)


Vocalisations given during aggressive interactions are called churr calls. These consist of longer notes than those discussed in multichirp calls. This call is seen in altercations between conspecific males (one of which no doubt either ignored a multi-chirp call or was unnaturally enclosed in captivity with a male of assumed equal prowess in the vivarium – the latter being the most likely.) and humans or other perceived predators.

(Marcellini, 1977)


Tokay Geckos particularly have a very complex vocal repertoire. This species is unique in having a multipart advertisement call that begins with a rattling sound that is followed by a series of two-syllable chirps. Nothing is known about the significance of these call components, but it is possible that Tokays resemble some frogs in using part of the call to fend off males yet with another part to attract females.

(Brillet & Paillette, 1991)


*A difference noticed by the author between the sexes of the Tokays is the depth of the croak. What is discussed in text read in numerous places if the frequencies utilised by Tokay Geckos but no mention is made of the use of lower frequencies by males and conversely higher frequencies by females. The adult males that are in the collection have a much more powerful gruff deep voice where the females are more likely to squeak by comparison. I conclude that depth of voice may play a role in sex determination of Tokay Geckos. Although it must be noted that this has not been scientifically proven and is only the authors opinion.

A published & brief discussion of pre-anal pores and those of Tokay Geckos:


Pre-cloacal glands, the femoral pores or to be more precise inguinal pores were first described by Linnaeus (1758) (Funny that the Tokay was found and described the same year! – Could the two be connected). They are epidermal structures present in many lizards.


Pre-cloacal glands and femoral pores when considered in comparative anatomy are said to be homologous (features that may have the same evolutionary origin but not necessarily the same function. - D.C.Wareham, 2005.)

(Gabe and Saint Girons, 1965)


The glands produce copious amounts of holocrine secretion as a solid core and appear mostly in males. The pores are invariably larger in males. The amount of secretion produced in different seasons has never been measured quantatively, but it is generally accepted that femoral glands secrete more actively in the breeding season.

(Gans & Crews,1992)


* Much text found about Tokay Geckos says how easy it is to sex this species due to the male having pre-cloacal pores, what the various texts fail to mention is that the females also have them. When considering Leopard Geckos (Eublepharis Macularius) males have hollow pores which are visible and males are determined by their presence regardless of whether holocrine plugs are present or not. Females look to almost have vestigial marks on the scales but seem to lack the capability to exude holocrine plugs from them. This is not I have discovered the case in Tokay Geckos. Females too have hollow pre-cloacal pores although no plugs have been found to be present in any of the females. In the males the pores are only slightly bigger yet they do have holocrine plugs present. I conclude that by using these pores alone it may not be totally reliable to sex them unless you are fortunate to have number present for comparison. The use of these pores in conjunction with other variables used to distinguish sex may still be useful. Other variable will be discussed later.

Male pre-anal Pores (Hypo male)
Photograph: Charles Thompson

In time I will add more pictures comparing these pores. The granite pair which I keep together produced an egg, yet both have pre-anal pores and both have endolymphatic calcium sacs. So other factors such as size, build, depth of voice must also be taken into account.

Female pre anal pores (Female Hypo)
Photograph: Charles Thompson

Published description and brief discussion of endolymphatic calcium sac in Tokay Geckos:


These glands lie above a ductus endolymphaticus and are connected to the static organ. The calcium sacs lie in the lower throat and usually contain a milky calcium carbonate liquid. It is increasingly thought that the calcified endolymphatic sacs serve as calcium reserves enabling the female to produce hard shelled eggs. In favour of this theory is the fact that amongst Gekkonidae they are only found in Sphaerodactylinae and Gekkoninae, and that they are absent in Diplodactinae and Eublepharinae, which lay soft shelled, parchment like eggs. Against the theory however that is in some species that males also have endolymphatic sacs which do not contain calcium. This storage system prevents the female suffering enormous “calcium stress” whilst gravid, and simultaneously guarantees that sufficient calcium is available during the relatively short period in which the eggs are formed.  There is even calcium in the endolymphatic sacs of embryos and newly hatched young. This calcium is vital to strengthen the skeletal bones of the young.

(Henkel & Schmidt, 1995)

Female endolymphatic calcium sacs
Photograph: Charles Thompson

Male endolymphatic calcium sacs
Photograph: Charles Thompson

Published description and illustration of the feet of Tokay Geckos


The Gecko’s ability to scuttle up vertical walls and even run around upside down on a ceiling was once the source of much controversy among naturalists. Some said that the rows of plates on the underside of the feet secreted some kind of glue – but no trace of it could be found. Others maintained that the pads created a suction. That suggestion was disproved by putting the animals on a pane of well-polished glass on which suction should work particularly well. But the animals could not maintain their foot hold at all well. Eventually, electron micrographs of the pads revealed that each carries literally millions of tiny hairs. Each of these splays out at its end into twenty or so spatulae that are so infinitesimally small that they are able to utilize that force that binds molecules together (Van Der Waals force). This force only operates between bodies that can get within molecular distances of one another, but the hairs, being so extremely small, can indeed do this. The tiny setae (microscopic spatulae) which produce an immense amount of grip when on an optimum surface (130kgs). The strong adhesion is aided by a force known as Van der Waals Force which draws molecules together (the molecules of the climbed surface and those of the foot) disengagement occurs at an angle of 30 degrees and this is achieved by curling or rotating the foot.

(Attenborough, 2008)

Tiny setae cover the foot pads of geckos
Copyright: Andrea Rinaldi

Various Gecko Feet
Copyright unknown

A Brief description of the colour changing capabilities of Tokay Geckos


From reading various texts on Tokay Geckos it becomes apparent how many people list the colour changing capabilities of Tokays. What is usually said is that they are nice and bright in the vivarium but when handled darken down considerably. I have found the total opposite and this could be just to do with the colour morph Tokays. All of the colour morphs except the high whites (Calico and Patternless Axanthic) brighten up when handled. To complete the colour change usually takes from 3-4 minutes. Warwick, Frye and Murphy discuss what is called ‘emotional fever’ where an animal can raise its core body temperature by 6 degrees during times of handling stress. Could the increase of temperature play a part in the colour change?


It seems strange to me that this colour change takes place in only my lizards at not normals, as the colour phases which change up rather than down when handled have melanin same as a normal and one would expect the colour change to follow suit. When ‘free’ handling a Chameleon for example it is quite common for the brightest colours to be exhibited as the animal using colour communication wishes to exert some form of dominance. Once the chameleon has been forcibly restrained the colour deepens to black. Now as most Tokay Gecko keepers know if you have a run of the mill wild Tokay Gecko you will be restraining it or it will be hung of your finger end! Yet the colour stays bright – is this because of the Tokay Geckos never say “die” attitude?

Blue Granite straight out of vivarium
Photograph: Charles Thompson

Blue Granite after 3 mintues of handling.
Photgraph: Charles Thompson

Blue & Orange Granite straight out of vivarium
Photgraph: Charles Thompson

Blue & Orange Granite after 3 minutes of handling
Photograph: Charles Thompson

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