Meet the Mourning Gecko
Parthenogenic = No Males Necessary
This is what made this gecko famous, or at least put them on the radar of gecko keepers. Parthenogenic means that the gecko doesn't need to mate with a gecko of the opposite sex in order to lay fertile eggs. Females will lay eggs on their own, without ever having to come into contact with a male. That said, egg production does increase dramatically when they're kept in groups of two or more. If you think that's interesting, it only gets better.
Originally a Hybrid
The way I understand it, L. lugubris was given full species status prior to the discovery that it is actually the result of two other Lepidodactylus species. Interestingly enough, when those two parent species breed, they actually do produce male offspring. It's not clear whether those male offspring are fertile, as there's really no way for them to pass on their genes when their female counterparts are self-sufficient.
Where do they come from?
Because they thrive on Crested Gecko Diet MRP and do well at room temperature, they're commonly thought of as a New Caledonian species, just like the crested gecko and all its cousins. However, the mourning gecko actually has a relatively widespread distribution, mostly introduced and not native, ranging from New Caledonia to Japan to Hawaii and probably hundreds of tiny islands in between.
It's not clear, to me at least, where this hybrid first originated...but read on because this gets even more interesting.
L. lugubris will lighten and darken throughout the day, and from my observations, I really believe their color does change somewhat accourding to their surroundings.
Attack of the Clones
Because sperm from a male is not required to fertilize an egg, these geckos are essentially genetic clones of their mother. This means that every baby produced by a female is going to have an identical pattern (with the exception of possible temperature related pattern abnormalities). However, each population of these geckos are reported to have different markings. I've seen photos, but have never been able to acquire specimens, of the other clones. I think there could be a demand for different paint jobs on these interesting little geckos, but I'm sure it would take some serious leg work to locate the different clones.
Housing and Social Structure
I've been observing and "breeding" these geckos for 7 years now and I still find myself watching them on a regular basis. These geckos communicate a LOT...lots of clicking and chirping, as well as tail-waiving (very cool - tail points up in the air and moves in a serpentine fashion). They are territorial, but at the same time, they don't seem to have a problem sharing a cage...that is, after the geckos establish who gets what area. This process involves lots of chasing and nipping when a new cagemate is introduced. I've seen plenty of fights, but the worst injury has been a missing tail tip...which will grow back almost as good as new. Keeping the numbers down to 4-6 babies or 2-4 adults per cage (12x12x18 Exo-Terra or Zoo Med glass terrarium) is a good way to keep fights from happening too often.
The cage shown at right is one of our subadult growout cages. I've had success raising up to six geckos in this size cage, but we try to reduce the number to 4 geckos as they reach full size.
Just FYI - The gecko visible on the plastic lip at the top of the cage is a subadult, just a couple months away from laying her first eggs.
Our mourning geckos are fed strictrly T-Rex Crested Gecko Diet (same as Repashy Gecko Diet MRP). We used to feed crickets, but we quit offering them for fear that geckos would accidentally eat their babies if they got in the habit of chasing brown crickets of a similar size. I've been offering this diet (no bugs) for over three years now and have had excellent results raising babies to adulthood in short periods of time
These geckos can be kept and grown up QUICKLY using nothing but crested gecko diet as a food source, so they're easy to keep.· You can do three to five adults in a 12x12x18 Zoo-Med or Exo-Terra glass cage (be sure to block all holes).· Keep them in the high 70's or low 80's (usually no more than a 15 watt bulb) and you're set.
Interesting Feeding Tip/Trick
A while back, I noticed that fruit flies are attracted to the diet we feed our geckos. Of course, the geckos do catch a fruit fly on occasion, but not very often. However, the fruit flies will lay their eggs in the food. If you throw the food out after 48-72 hours, you'll probably never notice anything. However, if you keep an old bowl of food in the cage for a week or so, you'll start to notice fruit fly larvae squirming around at the bottom...they basically look like house fly maggots, but smaller. You might say "ew, gross!", but it's basically like finding miniature meal worms for your mourning geckos. And believe me, when we put a bowl of fruit fly larvae in a cage, they appreciate it! The best part about this tasty treat is that the larvae have been "gut-loaded" with a balanced and nutritious diet (same thing the geckos eat) and best of all, it's free!
Pricing & Availability
Geckos Available Now - Inquire
Subadults (6-9 months) - Close to Laying Eggs, or Gravid - $75 each
Juvies (3-4 months) - Approximately 6-7 months until they start laying - $50 each
Pairs Recommended - It is highly recommended to keep at least two of these in a cage. This is because they lay eggs more often and also because it's so much more enjoyable to see them interact with each other.
Pricing - I realize that you may be able to find them cheaper if you see some for sale, but that's the key - they aren't very easy to find. I'm writing this in September 2010 and I haven't seen any of these for sale online in at least three years. While getting these geckos to lay eggs is obviously easy, these geckos are TINY and they glue their eggs (about the size of a pencil eraser) to whatever surface they're laid on, so they do require some special attention while they're young, as they hatch out at around 1" total length. You can sometimes stumble upon them at shows, but not usually.
Remember - Our mourning geckos are started on Crested Gecko Diet so that you'll never have trouble finding crickets small enough for them. This is very important to consider, as older geckos who've been started on baby food and crickets will have a hard time adjusting to the taste.