Mossy leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus sikorae)
Keeping and breeding at BION Terrarium Center
DESCRIPTION, DISTRIBUTION AND BIOLOGY
Mossy leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus sikorae, Boettger, 1913) is a medium-sized leaf-tailed gecko. Adults may attain a SVL of 85–123 mm, TL of 65–77 mm (total length 150–200 mm).
Total length for juveniles is about 60–70 mm. Body is strongly flattened. Relatively large head is also flattened and terminates in a rounded snout. Less than 35 supralabial scales are present. Coloration is extremely variable: moss green, lichen and bark color, rarely reddish and a black buccal membrane (https://www.reptifiles.com/uroplatus-leaf-tailed-gecko-care/uroplatus-leaf-tailed-gecko-species/). The ventral part of the body and limbs are white to reddish with numerous fine black spots. The iris is yellowish. A marked dermal fringe runs along the whole body. Males are easy to sex thanks to their hemipenal bulges (Svatek, van Duin, 2001). These arboreal geckos have the ability to change their skin color to match their surroundings and possess dermal flaps which break up their outline when at rest (Ratsoavina at al., 2013). A dermal flap lines the body and legs enabling to hide their outline when fully utilized.
U. sikorae is easily distinguished from Uroplatus sameiti (Bohme & Ibish, 1990) by examining the color of the buccal membrane near the back of the animal’s mouth (http://uroplatus.info/archives/65). Buccal membrane in U. sikorae is black of dark brown while in U. sameiti it is pink or flesh colored. They spend most of the daylight hours hanging vertically on tree trunks, resting mainly upside down. Their activity peak can be observed from late evening and during the whole night. During the night, they venture from their daylight resting spots, and go off in search of prey or pair (Pianka, Eric, 2006).
U. sikorae inhabit higher elevation forests (>1000m a.s.l.) in the Eastern and Northern areas of Madagascar (http://uroplatus.info/archives/65).
Due to mass deforestation and destroying of their natural habitat they have IUCN Status indicated as “Least Concern” (https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/172820/6924215). The species is also listed in CITES Ap. II. Therefore development of breeding methods and creation of ex situ populations is extremely important (Dubyna et al., 2019).
KEEPING AT BION TERRARIUM CENTER
Keeping. We keep adult males and females separately or in pairs, at 70*50*50 cm (27.5*19.7*19.7 in) terrariums; babies are kept only separately at terrariums of not less than 30*30*45 сm (11.8*11.8*17.7 in). The decoration of the terrarium includes horizontal and vertical branches of medium thickness, lianas, layers of bark for climbing, hollows, living plants and shards as shelters. Substrate - crushed small pieces of bark with layer of dry oak leaves. Paper with a box of wet coconut substrate as moist chamber is also an option. Water dish is obligatory.
U. sikorae juveniles inside decorated terrariums
Lighting. Zoo Med 5 UVB lamp is used during breeding season for 10-14 hours per day; during period of winter dormancy (2 months) for 4 hours per day.
Temperature. Daytime temperature is +24 – +26 °C, at night – +19 – +21 °C; at the time of winter dormancy – +18 – +21 °C. Heating with 25W incandescent lamp is used only during wintering months to maintain daytime temperature. During breeding season we use no heating source. UVB is important for successful breeding.
Humidity. Humidity is 75-90% both for babies and adults with double spraying during the day.
Diet. Diet for adults contains Turkestan cockroaches (Shelfordella tartara), and crickets (Jamaican field crickets (Gryllus assimilis) and Mediterranean field cricket (Gryllus bimaculatus). Locusts and soft-shelled snails are used as additional food and treats, which are given 1-2 times per month. We offer 2–3 insects per head 1–2 times per week. If the animal shows signs of obesity, the frequency of feeding is reduced to 1 time per 2 weeks.
It is strictly recommended not to use wild caught insects. Sometimes if an animal is still hungry we can offer one or two additional feeding items. We offer soft-shelled snails for females
during ovogenesis. All insects should be gut loaded and dusted with vitamin-mineral supplementation every other feeding. Sepia or cuttlefish “bone” powder works well as a source of calcium. Insects are dusted with it prior to the feeding session. We gutload the insects with fruit, greens and vegetables and sometimes bee pollen as an additional source of vitamins and bioactive elements.
Diet for babies is the same as for adults. We use insects of appropriate size. We offer 3 insects per head 2–3 times per week before age of 1.5 months; 3 insects per head 1–2 times per week after age of 1.5 months. We add mineral supplements "Repashy" with D3 with every second feeding.
BREEDING AND RAISING AT BION TERRARIUM CENTER
Winter dormancy is necessary for successful breeding. Animals are placed inside individual terrariums (females cannot be kept in groups – only separately) with paper as a substrate. After placing the animals in a special laboratory, the temperature, spraying intensity (from 2 to 1 session per day) and daylight hours (by 1.5-2 hours per week) decrease within 2 weeks. Temperatures during wintering are as follows: +19 - +21 °C at daytime and +18 - +19 °С at night. It is necessary to ensure that there are no signs of dehydration (twisted tail, clavicles visible, protruding hip bones). We provide 4 lighting hours per day. Wintering lasts for 2 months. We offer 1 low-fat insect per head, 1 time per week. Winter withdrawal algorithm is reverse to input and lasts for 2 weeks. After that we form pairs (groups). One should keep an eye on the female since she might be aggressive towards the male. In such case the pair should be re-formed and another male should be placed with the female. Copulation lasts for up to 40 minutes. Males’ typical mating behavior includes head bobbing, tail waving, licking of female’s legs, tail and back. After every clutch females become receptive for mating again. They usually mate during the first 5-7 days after the making a clutch.
U. sikorae female making a clutch.
Sometimes females lay infertile eggs or so-called “slugs”. They usually attach these eggs to the branches of walls of the terrarium. Sometimes these “slugs” are consumed by a female. Presence of “slugs” means that copulation took place too late and the fertilization of the eggs failed.
U. sikorae gain sexual maturity at the age of 24-30 months. Breeding season lasts from April to September. One female is able to make from 3 to 5 clutches per season (1–2 eggs in each). Females lay eggs in the substrate and cover them with bark, dry leaves or turf.
Gestation period is 30-35 days and depends on the female. The eggs are transferred to the incubator without changing polarity. A small recess is made in vermiculite and each egg is placed in such a recess individually at no more than 2/3 eggs’ height depth. The eggs are incubated on vermiculite or “Seramis” substrate at +22 - +23°С at night and +24 - +25°С at day. Humidity is 75 - 85%. Incubation period is 75 - 110 days.
We keep juveniles separately. All keeping requirements are identical to those for adults. For the first 6 months plastic lunchboxes with ventilation, paper towel, water dish and thin branches work well. Hatchlings normally shed within a couple of days after hatching. If a baby cannot shed on its own, you can help it by tearing the linear peel on its face. But as a rule, most of these animals are weak and do not survive to reproductive age. Babies usually eat the shed skin. We believe that it is essential for appropriate functioning of digestive system.
U. sikorae juveniles after hatching.
1.. Boettger, O. 1913. Reptilien und Amphibien von Madagascar, den Inseln und dem Festland Ostafrikas. Pp. 269-375. In: Voeltzkow, A. Reise in Ostafrika in den Jahren 1903-1905. Wissenschaftliche Ergebnisse. Vol. 3. Systematische Arbeiten. Schweizerbart’ sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Nägele und Sproesser, Stuttgart
2.. Dubyna Anastasiia, Tkachev Dmitri, Neizhko Ivan, Nekrasova Oksana, Marushchak Oleksiі // Development of breeding techniques in herpetoculture as an approach to leaftailed geckos' (Gekkonidae, Uroplatus) conservation // Abstract book of 62nd International Conference for students of physics and natural sciences “Open Readings 2019” on March 19-22? Vilnius, Lithuania. – Vilnius. – 2019 – P. 467.
3.. Pianka, Eric R. (2006). Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversity. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 247
4.. Ratsoavina, F. M., N. R. Raminosoa, E. E. Louis Jr., A. P. Raselimanana, F. Glaw & M. Vences 2013. An overview of Madagascar’s leaf tailed geckos (genus Uroplatus): species boundaries, candidate species and review of geographical distribution based on molecular data. Salamandra 49 (3): 115-148
5.. Sacha Svatek and Susanna van Duin. 2001. Leaf-tailed geckos – the Genus Uroplatus. Brahmer-Verlag, 161 p. Germany.
8.. Map: (http://uroplatus.info/archives/65)