Geckos are lizards belonging to the infraorder Gekkota, found in warm climates throughout the world. They range from 1.6 cm to 60 cm. Geckos cannot blink. They have a fixed lens within each iris that enlarges in darkness. A gecko uses its long tongue to clean its eye and keep it dust-free.
Geckos are unique among lizards in their vocalizations. They use chirping sounds in social interactions with other geckos. They are the most species-rich group of lizards, with approximately 1,500 different species worldwide. The New Latin gekko and English gecko stem from the Indonesian-Malay gēkoq, which is imitative of the sound the animals make.
All geckos, excluding the Eublepharidae family, have no eyelids and instead have a transparent membrane which they lick to clean. Nocturnal species have excellent night vision; their eyes are 350 times more sensitive to light than the human eye. Most gecko species can lose their tails in defense, a process called autotomy. Many species are well known for their specialized toe pads that enable them to climb smooth and vertical surfaces, and even cross indoor ceilings with ease (one hypothesis explains the ability in terms of the van der Waals force). These antics are well-known to people who live in warm regions of the world, where several species of geckos make their home inside human habitations. These species (for example the House Gecko) become part of the indoor menagerie and are often welcome guests, as they feed on insects, including mosquitoes. Unlike most lizards, geckos are usually nocturnal and are great climbers.
The largest species, the Kawekaweau, is only known from a single, stuffed specimen found in the basement of a museum in Marseille, France. This gecko was 60 cm (24 in) long and it was likely endemic to New Zealand, where it lived in native forests. It was probably wiped out along with much of the native fauna of these islands in the late 19th century, when new invasive species such as rats and stoats were introduced to the country during European colonization. The smallest gecko, the Jaragua Sphaero, is a mere 1.6 cm long and was discovered in 2001 on a small island off the coast of the Dominican Republic.
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