Devil in the trees

Curious giant gecko on a New Caledonian pine tree'Devil in the trees' is the local New Caledonian name for the giant gecko because of the growling noises that it makes.

On the island of New Caledonia the giant gecko has grown larger, up to one foot long, because here no other animal competed with it for food or space - and it had few predators.

New Caledonia was originally part of the super continent Gondwana until about 60 million years ago when it broke apart and remnants drifted to their current positions. On mainland Australia (the nearest Gondwana remnant) a pouched mammal occupies the place of the giant gecko in the forest. It is only because marsupials did not cross to New Caledonia that these geckos have been able to live here and grow as big. Confined to this time capsule in the Pacific, it's been able to evolve to great size - for a gecko. Such gigantism is a common result of isolation for millions of years.

The giant gecko is mostly nocturnal and lives high in the trees. It is unusual to see it in broad daylight low down on the tree trunk. The camouflage makes it hard to see this individual's front leg against the pine tree trunk. (This is a still from one of NHNZ Images clips).

It is also known as Leach's gecko, and was first described in 1829 by the great French natural historian Baron von Cuvier. This vernacular name is preserved in the latin name Rhacodactylus leachianus.

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