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Observations of an opportunistic feeding strategy in flat-tailed house geckos (Hemidactylus platyurus) living in buildings

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House geckos (Hemidactylus spp.) are voracious
insectivorous that feed on large numbers of insects
daily. Several species of this genus live inside buildings
in close proximity to people where they forage near
artificial lights, feeding on those insects that are
attracted to light (Perry et al., 2008). This makes these
species excellent subjects for behavioral studies and
dietary analysis. Indeed, many studies have investigated
the diets of geckos belonging to the genus Hemidactylus
and found that diets of these species mainly consist of
insects such as Lepidoptera, Diptera but often also
contain other arthropods such as Arachinidae (Tyler
1961; Ramires and Fraguas 2004; Rocha and Anjos
2007; Diaz Perez et al., 2012; Tkaczenko et al., 2014).
Most of these studies suggest that house geckos are
strict insectivores, which is not any different for the flat-
tailed house gecko (Hemidactylus platyurus).
During the period between March 2013 to December
2016, I often observed house geckos (both Hemidactylus
frenatus and H. platyurus) foraging in garbage-bins
and on diner-tables in Kamphaeng Phet and Minburi,
Thailand and Malinau, Indonesia. I first assumed these
geckos were feeding on insects, such as house-flies, fruit-
flies or ants, that were attracted to leftovers. However, I
never actually witnessed the geckos preying on insects at
these specific locations. The geckos always disappeared
quickly when I tried to observe them. However, I
observed several times that fruits like papaya were eaten
by something, which I initially thought must have been
rats. It was later when I realized that it could have been
house geckos. In order to confirm this suspicion I placed
a camera near the garbage-bin in an attempt to capture
one of the geckos feeding on non-insect foods (Fig. 1).
In order to get clear images I served rice on a blue plate
that was placed on top of the bin. Figure 1 shows how
H. platyurus approaches a bin and snatches some boiled
rice. On another occasion I observed the same species
feeding on cucumber and fried egg.
Hemidactylus species are generally thought to be
strict insectivorous (see above), however here I show
that some species also feed on vegetal food items. Both
Hemidactylus platyurus and H. frenatus are often found
with close association with humans. The opportunistic
feeding strategy reported here may help to explain their
abundance in urban areas and their success as colonizer
and invasive species throughout the world (Carranza and
Arnold 2006). The abundance of insects inside buildings
can show high variation and might not always be
sufficient for house geckos. Feeding on other foods such
as rice, fruits and egg may aid survival during periods of
low insect abundance. Similar opportunistic behavior in
urban settings has been reported for other gecko species
such as the Malagasy day gecko (Phelsuma modesta
leiogaster). This species was observed feeding on honey
and artificial sugars inside homes (Gardner and Jasper
2015). However, unlike the genus Hemidactylus, the
genus Phelsuma contains many species that also feed
in natural situations on fruits and nectar (Murphy and
Myers 1996; Minnaar et al., 2013; Taylor and Gardner
2014).
It is unclear to what level vegetal food items play a
role for Hemidactylus species in natural situations,
because few dietary analysis have reported the presence
of food items other than insects or other arthropods.
One study on H. mabouia reported the presence of
vegetal material, but this was considered to be ingested
accidentally (Iturriaga and Marrero 2013). Two reasons
why non-insect food-items could be overlooked in
dietary analysis are because they are often much harder
to identify from stomach content or feces than insects
and feeding behavior is often studied at locations were
geckos are actively feeding on insects.
Herpetology Notes, volume 10: 133-135 (2017) (published online on 10 March 2017)
Observations of an opportunistic feeding strategy in flat-tailed
house geckos (Hemidactylus platyurus) living in buildings
Robbie Weterings1,*
1 Cat Drop Foundation, Drachten, Netherlands
* Corresponding author e-mail: robbie.weterings@gmail.com
Robbie Weterings
134
References
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Figure 1. Hemidactylus platyurus feeding on rice from a bin in Malinau, North Kalimantan, Indonesia on 11 December 2016.
First H. platyurus approaches the boiled rice (A-C), then it snatches some rice grains (D-F) and finally it handles the rice and
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Observations of an opportunistic feeding strategy in flat-tailed house geckos 135
Accepted by Jiri Smid
... Besides this interesting adaptation, common insectivorous gecko species have been reported recently to feed on food other than insects (Weterings, 2017;Tanalgo & Hughes, 2017). For example, Hemidactylus platyurus and H. frenatus were observed feeding on rice in a bin (Weterings, 2017) and Gekko monarchus feeding on bread from a plastic bag . ...
... Besides this interesting adaptation, common insectivorous gecko species have been reported recently to feed on food other than insects (Weterings, 2017;Tanalgo & Hughes, 2017). For example, Hemidactylus platyurus and H. frenatus were observed feeding on rice in a bin (Weterings, 2017) and Gekko monarchus feeding on bread from a plastic bag . To get an impression of how common this opportunistic feeding behaviour is among various insectivorous house-dwelling gecko species, we undertook an internet-based survey with ecologists, herpetologists and reptile enthusiasts that is reported here. ...
... Our survey shows that opportunistic feeding in geckos is more common than the incidental reports suggest (Weterings, 2017;Tanalgo & Hughes, 2017;. Such feeding has been recorded for all common invasive house geckos, except for Hemidactylus garnotii, and also from other house-dwelling gecko species that are not considered invasive. ...
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