Around here, we’ve got 3 small reptile species that are commonly seen. They are generally abundant in the yard, and commonly seen in the house as well. They get called by various names: gecko, chameleon, mo’o…
I took an interest in which species these actually were, maybe to find out a little about their habits, these fascinating, helpful and sometimes annoying creatures.
The most common is the gecko and the species we have here is Hemidactylus frenatus, known as the Common House Gecko. It is found all over and it’s chirping sound is a familiar one. People sometimes say, if one chirps after making some statement, that the universe or Nature is in agreement. It’s just a funny thing to say, but could possibly be true!
The ones we see are more-or-less like the one in the photo here. They seem to vary some in coloration, and it could be that we’re seeing more than one species: the mourning gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris), for instance, which was once the more numerous. These nocturnal reptiles are avid consumers of flying insects and are a valuable form of pest control, although cleaning up after them is a chore.
The award for most intelligent and aggressive goes to the Green Anole, or Anolis carolinensis. They are commonly called chameleon or mo’o but aren’t chameleons at all, although they can change color from dark brown to bright, bright green. When I say “mo’o” (meaning lizard, reptile, dragon or serpent in Hawaiian) this is the one I’m talking about. It just seems to earn the name best.
It has lidded eyes (geckos don’t have eyelids) that watch you closely–probably sizing you up for a possible territorial challenge! They will fight aggressively amongst themselves and are commonly believed to eat geckos. In fact all of these species will eat young geckos if they are small enough to catch. These mo’o are diurnal, not seen at night, and so they don’t seem to cross paths with the nocturnal house geckos much.
The most spectacular is the Gold Dust Day Gecko, commonly known also as the green gecko, or Madagascar chameleon. Phelsuma laticauda is the official name, and although they are not a chameleon either, this type of gecko is from Madagascar.
Ours are quite shy, diurnal and probably very territorial, as I have only seen them singly– well, I did once see two of them doing some kind of dominance stare-down before they noticed me and fled.
These reptiles are stunningly beautiful if you can get a close look.
We also have a skink here, the not so commonly seen, very shy Delicate skink, Lampropholis delicata, also just called “mo’o” but not for long! These guys are very quick and are gone as soon as you see them. I don’t ever see them in the house, they like to hang out under rotting wood, staying well clear of the centipedes (no doubt), which are about the same size.
A very unusual reptile we have here is the Hawaiian blind snake, Ramphotyphlops braminus. These guys look superficially like earthworms, but they move quick and have a beautiful metallic sheen, like hematite. They pretty much just live where earthworms are found, wiggling around underground, foraging for ant larvae and such.
There are a number of other reptile species, four different geckoes and skinks, a couple more day geckoes that can be found in various places around the islands. Some of them were once common, but have been displaced by more aggressive and versatile latecomers; the two geckoes on this page, for instance, are very successful later introductions.
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