Quirks & Quarks

Why Some Geckos Don't Stick

Some sticky-footed geckos have lost their grip in certain environments
A web-footed gecko (Pachydactylus rangei) ( T. Higham, UC Riverside)
Geckos are known for their sticky toe pads that enable them to climb up, over and across many different surfaces.

But a new study by Dr. Anthony Russell, a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary, has found that geckos in desert regions of Africa have evolved different mechanisms for dealing with the varied terrain there.

Geckos that need to move faster over large flat rocks have pushed the toe pad forward on their feet, so it does not impede their ability to run. Those that now inhabit sandy areas have also reduced the use of toe pads and have also evolved webbed feet, so they don't sink into the soft surface. Geckos that burrow have completely lost the adhesive pad in favour of more robust legs, better suited for digging.     

Related Links

- Paper in PNAS
- University of Calgary release
- University of California Riverside release