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What Traits Help Geckos Live in Hot Dry Places?

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Geckos are intriguing creatures with faces that only their mothers could love. That's not entirely true; lots of people like geckos and think they're cute. Some even keep them as pets, though geckos really aren't all that affectionate. Geckos have been around for more than 100 million years.

Gecko Creature Features

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The traits animals develop to survive and thrive in their environments are called adaptations. Geckos' adaptations have developed over about 100 million years, according to researchers for Oregon State University. In 2009, scientists found a gecko so perfectly preserved in amber from that far back that researchers could identify the sticky little toe fur on his teeny-tiny foot. Some varieties of gecko in the desert don't have sticky feet.

Gecko Feetsies

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Geckos' habitats include jungles, forests and deserts. About the only place you won't find a gecko is in icy climes such as Antarctica. One species of gecko found in a desert is the Namib Dune Gecko in Nambia. This colorful little guy has webbed feet that act much like snowshoes for sand. They allow the gecko to walk on top of the sand so that he doesn't sink in. The banded gecko, found in deserts in the United States, does have sticky feet, over which it has total control. When the situation calls for it, they can kick it up a notch with the suction cups.

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Another way that the gecko has adapted to a hot, dry, climate is by being nocturnal. Darkness provides protection from predators. Some geckos blend in with their surroundings better than 007 with his invisible Aston Martin. But foraging at night helps geckos conserve energy and stay out of the hot desert sun. Many insects are also more active at night; that's good for geckos, who eat them. Banded geckos in deserts of Utah, California, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico hide under debris or branches during the day, conserving energy for their nightly food fests.

Who You Calling Fat

Fat-tailed geckos have adapted to slim pickings in the desert by storing up to nine months' worth of food in their tails. They subsist on very little water and get most of the water they need from the food (bugs) they eat. Geckos are clean animals. They can't preen themselves like cats, but they shake off dirt, debris, slobber and anything else that does't belong on their bodies. This keeps them sleek and able to run fast. And with most species, if a predator catches a gecko by the tail, it breaks off and the gecko makes a clean getaway. Only a few species have eyelids, and most geckos clean their eyes with their tongue. The moisture in their eyes helps hydrate them in addition to keeping their peepers clean.