NZ’s jewelled gecko has some bizarre colour patterns


Bec Crew


Bec Crew

Bec Crew is a Sydney-based science communicator with a love for weird and wonderful animals. From strange behaviours and special adaptations to newly discovered species and the researchers who find them, her topics celebrate how alien yet relatable so many of the creatures that live amongst us can be.
By Bec Crew 19 November 2019
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Meet the lovely jewelled gecko, a rare and unusual reptile found only on the South Island of New Zealand.

The jewelled gecko is known for its distinct and beautiful colours, which vary depending on where they’re from: Otago, Canterbury, or Southland. Oddly enough, while their region tends to influence their appearance, their sex does not. While there are rules of thumb to help you tell the males and females apart, they don’t always apply.

The gecko in the image above was found on Banks Peninsula in Canterbury, a volcanic area on the east coast. The Canterbury form usually features bright green or olive skin, and while most males are grey or brown and the females are green and patterned, this is not always the case.

The diamond-shaped patterns run all the way down the length of the gecko and can be white, yellow, green, grey or pinkish in colour.

Here’s another Canterbury jewelled gecko, this time with grey-brown diamonds:

Image credit: Carey Knox/

Here you can see brown and green Canterbury jewelled geckos in contrast.

The Canterbury form is also distinct due to the colour of the gecko’s mouth and tongue. The inside of the mouth tends to be pink or mauve, and the tongue is pink or orange tongue, sometimes with a dark grey underside.

The Otago form only comes in bright green, and features either diamond shapes or narrow green, white, or yellow stripes along the body. Females seem to be more likely to have the diamond pattern, but again, this is not always the case.

Here’s one with white stripes:

Image credit: reptiles4all/Shutterstock

Here you can see both patterns together.

Otago jewelled geckos have distinctly coloured mouths – they have dark blue mouths and black tongues.

The Southland jewelled geckos tend to be plain green.

There are at least 39 species of gecko in New Zealand, but less than half of them have been formally described. Geckos endemic to New Zealand birth live young rather than eggs, which is an extremely rare trait – the only other known geckos to do this live in New Caledonia.

New Zealand geckos are also known for their long lifespans. Some have reportedly lived to more than 42 years old in the wild.

Known for their beauty, New Zealand geckos are popular in the pet trade, and there have been several instances of jewelled geckos and other species being smuggled out of the country by poachers.

This is particularly concerning when it comes to the jewelled geckos, because their numbers are dwindling, and are now a near threatened species.

We don’t have great footage of jewelled geckos to show you, but you should see the similar New Zealand species in the video below by Massey University. The colours up close are just breathtaking: