Squamata (amphisbaenians, lizards and snakes)
HABITAT AND RANGE
Fat-tailed geckos are found in the savannahs, rocky hillsides, dry open woodlands and riversides of West Africa from Senegal to Cameroon.
Fat tailed geckos come in many different color morphs depending on their habitat. They have beautiful patterns on their dorsal surface while they usually are a light green or tan color on the ventral surface. Their namesake is obviously due to its long and wide ribbed tail which is colored similarly to the rest of its body. On top of their head they may have a light colored circle which indicates the position of the pineal gland. They are about 8 inches long when fully grown.
Fat tailed geckos are carnivorous. They generally feed on crickets and other insects as well as worms and grubs.
REPRODUCTION AND LIFESPAN
Fat tailed geckos generally lay about 5 clutches of two eggs each but they can lay as many as 13 clutches in one season. The sex of the offspring is determined by the incubation temperature; males will emerge from eggs that experience temperatures above 90 degrees F. Eggs that experience temperatures below 90 will actually be a mixture of both males and females. Lifespan can reach 20 years.
The fat tail is actually a two part defense mechanism for the gecko. The first line of its defense is called Mullerian mimicry. In Mullerian mimicry, an animal attempts to make non vital parts of its body represent other parts of its body-more often than not the head. The general shape and size of the geckos fat tail resembles the shape and size of the geckos head. The gecko hopes that a predator will attack its tail rather than its head (many butterflies employ Mullerian mimicry by having huge eyespots on their wings to scare off potential predators). The second part of the gecko's defense is a result of the first part. If the tail does get attacked, rather than the head, it can break off. When the tail becomes separated, nerve impulses still exist in the tail and it will twitch for a few minutes. The predator will concentrate on catching the tail while the gecko can escape. The tail regenerates, but contrary to popular belief, only a small stump will regenerate.