Tropical Leaf-Tailed Gecko

The Northern leaf-tailed gecko really doesn't need much of an introduction for those who dabble in Australian herpetology. With its extraordinarily cryptic camouflage and large size (144mm T.L), this gecko has been high on my list of critters that I've wanted to find for years. Yes, years.

Along with the stunning Boyd's Forest Dragon - this is simply one of my favourite rainforest reptiles.

So imagine my surprise when we not only found one, but we eventually stumbled across three!. To say I was a happy bunny would be a grievous understatement.

Saltuarius cornutus

So beautifully blended

Close up of that remarkable tail

The spinose tubercles that fringe the reptile serve to break up its silhouette, this along with its lichenesque colouration makes spotting one quite the challenge. As such they are rarely seen during the day (it has also been suggested that they seek refuge in hollows and crevices, only emerging at night to hunt). However, on overcast and often wet days I know people who have observed them.

Nestled in the moss

The Southern leaf-tailed gecko Phyllurus cornutus, female lays 1–2 parchment-shelled eggs in a shallow nest covered with leaf litter and soil. Up to 14 eggs from multiple females have been found in a single communal nest.

Even the eyes are cryptic

So where does one find such beasties? Well, you'll obviously need to be in the wet tropics somewhere above 100m. Your best bet will be to head out at night, take a good torch (head torches are ideal for these guys). Work your way along slowly and remember to scan the backs of the trees you pass - patience really is the key. Once you've reached the end of the trail/track/road or whatever you're searching on take the exact amount of time and care on the return journey.

I can't tell you the amount of times that I've been leaving an area and it's then that I spot something interesting. Of course there are always those unexpected surprises too.

Using an abandoned shed as a hunting ground

One of the many things that fascinates me about these lizards is their departure from the usual gecko custom of having grippy pads on their toes. Instead they have much more claw like structures for feet - no doubt this enables them to clamber up and down craggy trees and slippery branches with ease.

For me their overall look is mildly insect like - spindly and somehow angular. Not at all like the plump and perennially smiling geckos that I normally see ...

An excellent house-mate

That's not to say that such geckos are lacking a ferocity all of their own ... such as this plucky little guy who attempted to consume a hawk-moth considerably larger than itself.

Hunger is the best sauce right

Note the moth scales on the geckos eyes

So a real treat and a wildlife bothering victory. And one that I'm stoked to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed the post or spotted an error leave a comment and/or share on your favourite social media platform - cheers, I appreciate it.

Until next time - take care

The conservation status of Northern leaf-tailed geckos has been denoted as being of least concern

Herpetologists at the Queensland Museum, working with colleagues from James Cook University, the Australian Museum, Sydney University and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, have undertaken extensive fieldwork to document rainforest faunas.

Since 1991, this collaboration has increased the number of described leaf-tailed geckos from five to sixteen species.