Chameleon Gecko (Carphodactylus laevis) and Northern Leaf-tailed Gecko (Saltuaris cornutus) are two Geckos occasionally seen on a Cooper Creek Wilderness Nocturnal Wildlife Tour, from the Family Gekkonidaea, having Gondwanan ancestral forebears dating back 100-million years. Chameleon Gecko (Carphodactylus laevis) is a species in a monotypic genus of Australian gecko. It is the only member of its genus and is found exclusively in the Wet Tropical Rainforests of North Queensland. The antiquity of these Geckos has been used as evidence of a Gondwanan origin.
The concentration of endemic reptiles in the Wet Tropics is greater than in any other area of Australia. About 162-species of reptiles live in this region and 24 of these species live exclusively in the rainforest. Eighteen of them are found nowhere else in the world. The prevalence of rare, ancient and endemic species such as Carphodactylus laevis, contribute to the weight of evidence claiming that the Wet Tropics of Australia is the world’s oldest rainforest.
The chameleon gecko’s largely fleshy, white-tipped tail is held aloft and even waggled from side to side, in the face of ominous danger. Under extreme threat, it will jettison its tail, which flip-flops from side to side. An opening on the broken surface opens and closes with each flexion, producing a sound which is remarkably similar to the distress call of a juvenile rodent. The predator has its attention strategically drawn to the bouncing, squeaking, flip-flopping, white-tipped morsel, whilst the more important part of the gecko conceals itself into hiding. Regeneration of the tail is complete in about six months. The original tail is even more distinctive than all successive regenerated tails, with four white rings along a darker shaft. Such is the effectiveness of this decoy and regeneration strategy, that the Chameleon Gecko has endured since the Jurassic period.
About 130mm in length, its body is light brown and its distinctive banana-shaped tail in its original condition has 4 white bands. Once the chameleon gecko sacrifices its tail to divert the attention of the would-be predator, its new tail is uniformly camouflaged, with a white tip and less showy. Geckos are mostly nocturnal with soft bodies and tiny granular scales. They have well-developed limbs with five digits, large eyes with vertical pupils, no eyelids, and broad fleshy tongues. In the absence of eyelids, the tongue is used to lick the eye clean. The chameleon gecko has an overhanging brow that shields the eyes from discovery by predators such as owls and gives the gecko a sleepy appearance. Its feet are not padded, they resemble birds’ feet and can grip the trees. It is usually found on trees with its head facing downwards to avoid detection. Geckos generally lay two eggs per clutch. During the day, geckos can be found hiding in confined spaces: spider holes, beneath dead bark, in leaf litter on the ground, rock crevices and the like.