What lizard is this?

15 June, 2008

Question: Last night I saw this lizard in my Melbourne garden. It looks just like a gecko, but I didn’t think geckos lived this far south. I know tropical frogs sometimes make it to Melbourne in shipments of bananas. Could this gecko be a stowaway?  I’m worried the gecko won’t survive a Melbourne winter. Should I try and catch it?

Marbled Gecko, Christinus marmoratus

Photographer/Source: Michael Kearney

Answer: The gecko you saw in your garden is a Marbled Gecko, Christinus marmoratus.

Marbled Geckos are actually quite common in some parts of Melbourne (there is a huge population in the Melbourne Cemetery), but people rarely see them because they are nocturnal. You’re most likely to find them between pieces of wood in your garden, in your roof or even indoors behind a picture frame.

Marbled Gecko

A Marbled Gecko
Photographer: Peter Robertson / Source: Wildlife Profiles Pty Ltd

Even if you never see a gecko in your house or backyard, you can often tell they’re around by the signs they leave behind. Marbled Geckos deposit tiny black and white poos on the surfaces they walk across (their poos look a lot like small bird poos).

Unlike most reptiles, Marbled Geckos don’t leave their shed skins behind for keen naturalists to find. They eat them! They also eat spiders and insects such as cockroaches, so they are useful little creatures to have around the home.

Marbled Geckos are the only geckos that are found in Melbourne. It is unknown whether this species originally occurred in the area; it is possible that they were unintentionally introduced to the city by people bringing in firewood and garden rocks from other parts of Victoria.

Many reptiles would struggle in Melbourne in winter; moving, digesting and reproducing become more difficult for reptiles when it gets cold. Marbled Geckos, however, can be active at temperatures as low as six degrees. In the dead of winter they may only come out for a short time after it gets dark and then find shelter when it gets too cold.

In winter, Marbled Geckos select daytime retreats that will allow them to warm up – thin sun-baked rocks, roof tiles or north-facing tree bark. In summer they choose deeper retreats.

We would not recommend trying to catch the gecko in your garden. You could give it a nasty fright and cause it to drop its tail (a useful defensive strategy allowing the rest of the body to escape). Geckos store fat (and water) in their tails. While your gecko will cope perfectly well with the cold in winter, it will struggle without its winter stores during this period when food is scarce.

Comments (25)

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Marianne Bois 24 April, 2011 13:56
I saw one like this last night outside on my Lime tree but it was paler and didn't appear to be quite so marbled. It looked a lot like the Asian House Gecko picture that I googled prior to finding your sight. Could this be right?
Discovery Centre 5 May, 2011 14:07

Hi Marianne,

The gecko is most likely to be a marbled gecko. They are extremely variable in their colouration pattern and are the only gecko commonly found in Melbourne. Asian house geckos can be very common in northern Australia but don’t make it as far south as Melbourne as it is too cold for them. Asian house geckos are usually found in close association with dwellings, so are more likely to be found inside the house than out in the garden. They are also quite vocal and you would hear their “chuck chuck” call.

Rachael 19 September, 2011 22:12
I live in Collingwood and my cat catches geckos that look very like this quite often, in fact, apart from 1 mouse they are the only animal I have seen him catch. I assumed he had been bringing them inside (as he did the mouse) but after reading the above am not so sure. A friend told me that they are an invasive species that came from Asia hidden in fruit? Someone else told me not to worry about the cat catching them as they are apparently feral and getting 'out of control'.... What is the truth of the matter? All the Gecko's the cat has caught have lost their tails before my getting them off him (alive and uninjured except for the tail) and releasing them in the garden. Am I doing the right thing saving them? I assumed the cat was taking them into the bathroom to play where there is nowhere to hide, but could they be Asian House Geckos already living inside? I grew up in Qld and have never seen any geckos like these. They are somehow, ..not so cute?... less tree frog-like?...And I have never seen one on a window. What do people think these geckos are? They are grey, speckled, sometimes with a slightly pinkish underside, but that may be due to cat-enforced stress....They look a lot more like the initial photo post by Photographer/Source: Michael Kearney than the marbled gecko in the reply!!! (Especially the tail, I have seen a couple still wriggling after disjointing, and they appear thin, almost skink shaped, though slightly rougher.) I really want to know whether I should stop my cat's gecko habit or not! I have heard an invasive species of gecko has recently begun breeding in Melbourne and do not want native geckos pushed out. If they are feral, these geckos seem as common in Collingwood as cane-toads in the 70's in Brisbane! (just smaller, less poisonous to domestic animals and much better looking.. but still, very different looking to the Qld geckos I am accustomed to.) I will make sure to photograph and post the next time, but the initial photo I mentioned above looks very similar.
Discovery Centre 21 September, 2011 10:27

Hi Rachael - we referred this query to staff from the Herpetology research area here at the Museum, and the response was the gecko you describe is the Marbled Gecko.  These, like a number of other species, vary considerably in body pattern and colour.  The other species you mention, the invasive Asian House Gecko is a window frequenter and is often heard uttering its very familiar ‘barking’ notes.  Meanwhile the Marbled species is silent.  The Asian species has been recorded in Melbourne but the numbers are very few, especially compared to the highly abundant Marbled Gecko. The Asian Gecko populations appear to be restricted to areas near docks and jetties.  As we believe that the gecko you describe here is the native species, the cat should be restrained from taking them and all of those caught should be released into a safer environment

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Sean 24 September, 2011 18:41
I was just wondering How do you catch a Marbled Geckos, that live in my garage roof
Discovery Centre 25 September, 2011 09:31
Hi Sean, as Marbled Geckos are a native species, they can only be kept by people who have a permit. Leaving your geckos in peace is the best way to protect a precious native species and for everyone to enjoy them.
Chris 13 January, 2012 14:05
Hi have have a few of these as pets, when i 1st set up the enclouser for them they found one gap and one got out, but lucky i found him. but since then they cant get out. The other day i did a count on them and one is gone. Will they eat each other?
Discovery Centre 14 January, 2012 11:51

Hi Chris - the main diet of Marbled Geckoes consists of invertebrates, it's unlikely they would cannibalise. You should be aware that this species is listed on Schedule 3 of the Wildlife Regulations Act 2002; as such you require a licence to keep them in captivity. There is also a code of practice for the safe housing of this and other listed species. More information on this can  be found here for the required licence, and here for the code of practice for animal welfare, particularly the keeping of reptiles.

We hope this helps

Patricia 25 December, 2012 14:25
Okay I've done a bit more research and if my memory of their distinctly two padded toes is correct then it's the marbled gecko and everything is cool, literally. The Asian House gecko has very different feet - though I was sure the ones I saw had little skin spines which is another point of difference. I might be mistaken and it was markings that made it look that way.
Discovery Centre 26 December, 2012 12:41
Hi Patricia, we would need some good quality images to try and provide you with an identification, (although it sounds like you've done the work yourself already). This PDF from the Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries on the Asian House Gecko may be of interest.
George 14 March, 2013 00:55
Noticed it last night inside my house. It looks like some sort of gecko. About 7 cm long, has some pattern but not very bright and distinctive. As you said marbled ones are silent. This one does sounds like a cricket. I was tipping it to be the marbled one, but after reading all this I'm not sure now. At this very moment it keeps doing these noises like ou have otside in the garden. Not sure how I'm going to sleep. What is it? How to get rid of it (catch it and put outside)? Will it do some mischief and damage?
Discovery Centre 16 March, 2013 12:55
Hi George, we have contacted the Herpetologist and she has said that it is very hard to know what it might be from your description and not knowing where you are. If you are in the Melbourne area it will be a marbled gecko – it is the only one. There is quite a detailed article on general observations of pet Marbled Geckos at http://users.monash.edu.au/~ralphk/gecko.html - this says that they make high pitched clicks, even though it is regarded as a silent species. If trying to move the gecko outside be aware that Marbled Geckos drop their tails very easily.

Marbled Geckos are harmless little lizards and may be attracted inside by warmth and insects around lights at night.

Trish 5 May, 2013 10:58
Thank you for having this page - I had no idea there were geckos in Melbourne! I found one of these in our house yesterday... I gently picked up and the kids and I had a lovely look at it's gorgeous features, then we put it outside. We were quite excited to find such a thing in Melbourne. I just googled to try and find out what it was, and come across this page - so thanks again for solving our mystery.
Clare 19 May, 2013 10:41
I think I saw one of these in our woodpile in Croydon yesterday. However, the last part of its tail was shiny and pointed, quite different from the rest of it. Was this because it had lost its tail and the tail was re growing?
Matt 4 September, 2013 14:51
Hi, I caught one last night with my son. He was pretty big. He was quite happy to sit on my arm and stay warm. Don''t worry his tail is intact and we let him go after taking some photos.
Paul 1 October, 2013 20:01
I work in a Camberwell Aged care home. I was working in the garden and found 2 of these cute little reptiles.. I didn't know we had gecko's in Melbourne.. I made sure they were safe to go about there business..Ta MV
Michael O'Connell 22 December, 2013 02:13
Saw a little one in the toilet and tried to catch him. He dropped his tail and I was shattered as I watched it bounce around for 2 minutes. I was on this page trying to see if he was going to be ok.
Jenelle Davis 3 February, 2014 23:13
Someone @ my work was getting a file out & on the wall was the marble gecko! It must of been living behind the filing cabinet for a while! They courts it and put it in the garden! So all was well.. Never new we had geckos in wheelers hill melbourne! A friend whos brother has lizards said it was a marble gecko!a bit creepy looking!but his out in the office garden now! Thankyou to google for finding this page!
Sara 22 June, 2014 19:00
Hi, I recently found one in the middle of my kitchen floor (I'm not sure how it got there...) and it's tail was already off when I found it. I've put it into a large aquarium and I'm not sure if I should let it go because I have just read this article and I'm scared it will have trouble surviving winter without the tail. What should I do??
Discovery Centre 24 June, 2014 11:06
Hi Sara - it isn't legal to keep the Gecko, so you should release it; they 'drop' their tails as a defence; no doubt the gecko escaped from a an attack from a bird or a cat (for example) and came into the house as a means of escaping danger - the best thing is to let it go in a secure place nearby outside (somewhere with losts of safe hiding places - crevices and the like and make sure it can safely find shelter before you leave it.
Charles 13 October, 2014 09:17
We live almost on the beach at Edithvale, and last week found one on a wall in the family room which had good morning sun. As a note above says: "or even indoors behind a picture frame." It seemed to have lost its tail, and when we checked behind the picture next day it was gone.
Colleen 2 November, 2014 01:24
I am very happy to find this site as I have been trying to identify the lizards/geckos that I see in my orchid house most nights, even in the middle of winter. Mine are a much paler colour than those pictured but are certainly the same thing. They crawl all over my orchid plants and hopefully eat any bugs and grubs they find. They are most welcome at my place.
Mason (3 years old) 11 February, 2015 15:22
I caught a gecko in my back yard, while I was searching for bugs. I love bugs. The gecko's tail fell off when I picked it up, and mum made a nice enclosure for it to look after it while it gets better. I have been catching ants and butchie bugs and small spiders for it to eat, what else can i give it to eat? Mum thinks i should let him go soon but I don't want him to die with his missing tail.
Discovery Centre 13 February, 2015 10:21
Hi Mason! How kind of you to care for the gecko, and it's great that you love bugs - we love bugs too! Don't worry, geckos have evolved to drop their tails and survive. It will probably grow a new tail over time. It is stressful for them, but your mama is right: your gecko will probably do better if you let it go in a nice quiet place near where you found it. That way it can find the food it wants to eat (like little moths), and hide in places that are as dark or cool or warm or humid as it likes.
Terrie 25 February, 2015 01:21
Help I found a tiny Gecko in my bedroom last night he ran away and I found him again tonight in the kitchen I caught him in a bowl with a lid n took him to the front door to let him out into the garden but as he had jumped to the top of the bowl I was going to try and take a picture of him he was super cute next thing I hear something thudding around and his wee tail fell off I ran outside straight away and put him in the bushes I feel so bad will he be okay? I must have given it such a fright will he survive now?