Mediterranean Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)
This invasive, nonnative species is a light--almost transparent--gray, brown, yellow, or pink. It has a mottled appearance, except for the tail which is banded. The tail is easily detached. The belly is light colored and translucent. The skin is covered in tubercles (wart-like bumps). It has sticky toe pads. The eyes are large with vertical pupils and lacking eyelids; the eyes are cleansed with tongue licks. A high-toned chirping or squeaking is voiced by this species, especially by males during territorial disputes. The young look like adults, but with higher color contrast.
Several characteristics distinguish this species from all other native lizards and it is not likely to be misidentified. An easy and obvious difference is the vertical orientation of eye pupils in Mediterranean Geckos, in contrast with round eye pupils found in native species.
This species is also known as the Turkish Gecko, Mediterranean House Gecko, or just House Gecko.
The success of this species as a nonnative invader has been due to its ability to acclimate to an urban setting. It is rarely found far from human habitation. In fact, larger building complexes (such as those at universities) provide perfectly suitable habitat with their plethora of walls, cracks, warmth (for surviving the winter), and nightly illumination (for drawing in prey insects).
This is a nocturnal species, most likely to be illuminated by vapor lights as it crawls on vertical walls (sometimes on ceilings!) in pursuit of insect prey. During the day, it is more secretive and will hide in any suitable dark, warm crevice. Areas behind appliances, such as refrigerators, provide perfect resting spots.
Breeding presumably occurs throughout the spring and summer with females laying several clutches of 1 or 2 eggs. Communal nesting by females has been documented (and may partially explain the spread of the species as nests of eggs--hiding in the soil of potted plants perhaps--get unwittingly translocated).
This species is an insectivore. It is often drawn to illuminated walls under vapor lights where insects congregate in large numbers. Hunting is fairly straightforward under such circumstances.
This species seems less skittish than most lizards and is typically quite approachable, especially during times of distraction (such as when one is more interested in catching insect prey). Some defense mechanisms include its nocturnal habits, ability to crawl up vertical surfaces, and detachable tail.
This species is an invasive exotic. As the name suggests, its original geographic range is around the Mediterranean Sea in southern Europe, but it has been ultra-successful in establishing colonies worldwide (documented in 35+ countries). In the United States, it has been documented in 15+ states, primarily in the south.
This species was once sold as a "novelty pet" that could be released into a kitchen for roach control (thus house gecko), but is now protected from international trade by CITES Appendix II. The presumed impact on native wildlife has historically been regarded as minimal, yet a more contemporary understanding of ecological dynamics suggests that we may simply not realize the longterm implications. Evidence from Florida and Texas suggests that this species itself may be out competed by other invasive gecko species!
I am aware of no large-scale eradication efforts in Arkansas. If a lesson is to be learned from the spread and resilience of this species, it is that the Mediterranean Gecko is likely--and unfortunately--here to stay.