Loose scales save gecko
In the Ankarana Reserve in northern Madagascar, scientists have discovered a new gecko species, Geckolepis megalepis. The animal differs from its fish-scaled gecko relatives by having 6-mm-large, overlapping scales located like roof tiles across its only 7- cm-long body. The scales are the key to a brilliant trick, which the animal uses to escape a predator. The scales are only loosely bound to the skin, so when the gecko is bitten, it shakes off the scales so quickly that the predator is left with a mouthful of scales, whereas the naked gecko escapes. The top skin layer falls off the animal along with the scales, but both skin and scales grow back again in a matter of a few weeks.
The trick saves the gecko’s life, but it is not cost-free for the host. The scales include lots of minerals, the reproduction of which requires major quantities of energy. Consequently, scientists wonder if it only takes a light touch for the gecko to shed its cladding – which has caused scientists problems, when they have tried to capture the gecko to study it.
When the gecko has shed its scales, it must wait, until the scales grow back again after a few weeks.