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Pachydactylus bicolor HEWITT 1926 


The original work is pblished in SAURIA, Berlin, 2006, 28 (1): 5–10.

Distribution and biotope 

Pachydactylus bicolor is endemic to north-western Namibia. Its area of distribution reaches from the Namib-Naukluft Park in the central Namib to Damaraland and Kaokoveld. In the North it reaches river Kunene and in the West it can even be found at the coast, if the habitat is suitable.

P. bicolor is a crevice specialist and inhabits rocky habitats (e.g. Erongo-Mountains and Spitzkoppe), as well as rocks lying on the ground of plains. In this habitat they live sympatric with the nocturnal gecko Chondrodactylus turneri laevigatus and the diurnal geckos Rhoptropus afer and R. bradfieldi. Due to their smaller and flat body dimensions, they are able to house smaller crevices than the larger geckos, which provides a certain security.

Captivity and breeding 

Various pairs of the species were kept over several years. Pachydactylus bicolor is a very agile gecko. In a habitat which mostly consists of insular rocks, we observed that a flushed gecko will never leave its rock. While the rock was rotated several times, the gecko always flew to the far side. However, this behaviour couldn’t be confirmed with different populations which inhabit rocky locations (e.g. Spitzkoppe), where multiple hiding places were available.

Pachydactylus bicolor
Pachydactylus bicolor
from Kamanjab, Namibia. © J. Marais.

Pachydactylus bicolor
Juvenile Pachydactylus bicolor from Kamanjab, Namibia. © J. Marais.

Like any gecko of the genus, P. bicolor is nocturnal. Its activity period in captivity starts shortly after the lamps are turned off. No activity could be observed after midnight. However, as the geckos get used to their keeper, certain activities can even be observed during daytime (e.g. feeding and drinking). Many species of the genus use sounds for communication among themselves. Such an acoustic prove couldn’t be provided for P. bicolor yet. 
The geckos shed every 4 to 6 weeks, whereas the skin is peeled in one part and eaten by the animals. Remaining pieces of skin aren’t noted anymore.  
P. bicolor is difficult to sex, as the genders hardly show any difference. The easiest way to sex them is to observe their behaviour closely. Two males which house the same tank are easy to determine, as they will start fighting already after an hour. When kept in tanks of the below size, this species seems to be very aggressive, as attacks occur without any warning. If the rivals don’t get separated, one of them will die during the following night.  

Tanks of 30 x 30 x 30 cm are suitable for these geckos. Back- and side walls should be pasted with limestone and sand in order to enlarge the animals’ free scope. The interior consisted of vertical limestone plates, which generated dark hiding places. Clay pots will be accepted as well. A 2 to 4 cm layer of sand is used as substrate. The interior is completed by a drinking dish and a living plant, which both help to generate a constant humidity. Lighting was provided through a 36 Watt fluorescent tube, which has been used for multiple tanks. The necessity of a hot spot depends on the location of the tank. P. bicolor prefers rather high temperatures. In our case, the tanks were located in the upper part of a rack and the tanks below helped to generate the necessary temperatures, whereby no hot spot was necessary and day temperatures of 32 to 38°C and night temperatures of 24 to 28°C were generated. If the tank is freestanding, a spot is probably needed to generate the appropriate temperatures. It must be ensured that the geckos can find cooler areas, if needed. 
Diet consisted of Drosophila, crickets, wax moths and their larvae, Buffalo-worms and similar invertebrates, which where dusted with minerals and vitamins (e.g. Korvimin ZVT®, Calcamineral). From time to time, the water was mixed with liquid vitamins (e.g. Multibionta®). Mussel grit was offered as well and was particularly consumed by the females during breeding season. Starting in spring, the females produced 3 to 5 clutches each in eight month, which were burrowed in loose sand. Our clutches always consisted of 2 oval, white eggs of 7.5 to 9.1 x 5.3 to 5.8 mm. The shell is 0.0041 mm thick. Eggs found in the natural habitat were 9.2 to 6.0 mm.


Pachydactylus bicolor clutch

The eggs were put in small boxes and incubated separately from other gecko clutches to ensure accurate data recording. A Jäger Kunstglucke was used to incubate the eggs at temperatures of 35 to 27°C at night and 28 to 30°C during daytime. Fertilised eggs get pink to red 2 to 4 days after egg deposition. This coloration disappears during further development and the eggs start getting darker. The juveniles hatched after 86 to 88 days with a SVL of 15 to 16.9 mm and a tail length of 14.8 to 14.3 mm.

Hatchling of Pachydactylus bicolor.

The juveniles are raised in tanks with an edge length of 25 to 30 cm. Interior and temperatures are the same as for the adults. No more than 3 juveniles were raised in one tank, as bigger groups lead to the death of restrained individuals. Therefore, raising the juveniles separately is regarded as optimal. The usual invertebrates in an appropriate size are offered every 2 to 3 days. 

 months old juvenile of Pachydactylus bicolor.

P. bicolor reaches its sexual maturity after 2 years. Early mating is likely to cause egg binding. A therapy of such a small gecko is usually unsuccessful. 

6 months old juvenile of Pachydactylus bicolor.

Original description

HEWTT, J. (1926): Some new or little known reptiles and batrachians from South Africa. — Ann. S. Afr. Mus., 20: 477, Plate XLIV, fig. 4 — Terra typica: Kaross, in the Kaokoveld, S.W.A., by Mr. E. F. Lawrence

Types.—Two specimens in the collection of the South African Museum (No. 17297), collected at Kaross, in the Kaokoveld, S.W.A., by Mr. E. F. Lawrence. These specimens are possibly immature and their characters a little uncertain, but the very striking colour pattern seems to warrant a distinctive name for the form, especially as there are minor structural peculiarities—the number of labials, etc.

The characters are as follows: Nasorostrals in contact, nostril well separated from rostral and first labial, rostral twice as broad as high, 8 upper labials, 7 quite distinct lower labials, snout scarcely more than 11/2 times as long as the eye; scales on the snout twice as large as those on occiput; a swelling above the loreal region on each side of the snout; symphysial shield nearly twice as long as broad ; ventral scales larger than the dorsals ; a circular area just in front of the vent with considerably enlarged scales, which are separated by much smaller scales from the strip of enlarged scales under each thigh ; dorsal scales not very strongly flattened; distal expansion of digits with 5 adhesive lamellae, the most distal lamella smallest and divided in the middle ; scales along the middle of the digit inferiorly all transversely enlarged.

Colour.—Head above greyish white, with some dark mottlings, and surrounded by an elliptical blackish stripe which arises at the nostril and passes backwards through the eye on each side and around the back of the occiput; this stripe is bordered behind by a white stripe arising on the upper lip and broadening a little over the neck; fore-limbs and greater portion of dorsal surface of body quite black, but changing suddenly to greyish white over the lumbar region; a dark transverse patch or band between the hind-limbs dorsally ; hind-limbs and base of tail greyish white, the tail with faint dark cross stripes.

Length from snout to vent 25 mm. ; tail imperfect.

Mr. Lawrence informs me that he noticed this gecko at other localities (Warmbad and Caimaeis), and that all specimens seen were similar in colour and size to those above described. They were found under logs or amongst decaying leaves.

Dr. Werner has given some notes on the coloration of the young of the related species, brunnthaleri, from which it is evident that the form now described cannot be referred to that species. It is, however, possible that fully adult specimens may be differently marked from the types : that such is the case in purcelli was pointed out by Methuen and myself in AnnalsTransvaal Museum, Vol. IV, p. 132, fig. 15, 1913. P. serval Wern., from Chamis in Great Namaqualand, seems to differ in the higher rostral and the greater number of subdigital lamellae (6), as well as in coloration, but the characters of immature specimens are unknown.

Lastly, P. pardus Sternf., from Warmbad, the only other western species of this group, differs in the greater number of labial shields (10-11 and 9) and in the rostral entering the nostril. Although the type locality is not more fully indicated, I presume that the particular Warmbad is that in the south of Great Namaqualand.