Spearpoint leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus ebenaui)
Keeping and breeding at BION Terrarium Center
DESCRIPTION, DISTRIBUTION AND BIOLOGY
Uroplatus ebenaui (Boettger, 1879 ) is the smallest species of the Uroplatus genus. They live in dry deciduous forests (Angel, 1942). Uroplatus ebenaui was originally described from Nosy Be, but it also occurs in lowland forests stretching from Ankarafantsika to Montagne d’Ambre in the north (http://uroplatus.info/uroplatus-ebenaui). Average SVL of adults is 55–67 mm, TL is 15–18 mm (total length 70–85 mm). Total length of juveniles is about 30 mm. The head is not flattened and terminates in a short, rounded snout. 20–22 supralabial scales are present and the tip of the upper jaw (rostrale) is not divided. The body is leaf-shaped and laterally compressed. Some spiny scales are arranged along the dorsal spine, on the elbows and above the eyes (Glaw et al., 2007).
Coloring varies from beige to red and chocolate brown with sometimes cream dorsal spine that makes them a perfect example of phytomimesys (phytomimicry). Females are larger than males. Males are easy to sex thanks to their hemipenal bulges. Males often have small droplet-like spots under their eyes. Also males usually have longer tails and fringes on them are frequently more serrated (Svatek, van Duin, 2001). In contrast, females have smooth tail fringes. Thanks to these features U. ebenaui can be easily sexed since the moment of hatching.
When they feel badly they sit for a long time with opened mouth. Another sign of bad health is rapid color change and “twisted” tail with the edges up. Animals often die after such signs. They tend to be quite calm and spend most of the time sitting in dry foliage and on branches of Benjamin ficus or other plants.
U.ebenaui is a species of relatively dry, lowland deciduous forest. These forests are hot, up to an average maximum temperature of +29 °C in the rainy season, and +25 °C in the dry season. However it should be noted that temperatures in the forest level which they inhabit are considerably lower. These geckos are usually found 1–5 m above the ground. They eats insects at night and is mainly inactive during the day (http://uroplatus.info/uroplatus-ebenaui). Additionally, they sleep flattened against tree trunks to camouflage against the bark or dry foliage (Bauer, 2013; Bohme, 2014).
Due to mass deforestation and destroying of their natural habitat they have IUCN Status indicated as “Vulnerable” (https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/172792/6919303), 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) for conservation of the species.
KEEPING AT BION TERRARIUM CENTER
Keeping. We keep adults in 19*30*20 cm (7,4*11,8*7,8 in) terrariums. Babies are kept in terrariums or plastic lunch boxes 25*25*25 cm (5,9*5,9*5,9 in). The decoration of the terrarium includes horizontal and vertical thin branches, lianas and living or artificial plants. Substrate - crushed small pieces of bark with layer of dry oak leaves. Paper towel instead of substrate will be also a good decision.
Lighting. Zoo Med 5 UVB lamp is used during breeding season for 10-14 hours a day; during winter dormancy – for 4 - 6 hours a day.
Temperature. Daytime temperature is +24 - +25 °C, at night – +19 – +21 °C. Heating with 40W 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 level is maintained at 60-75% 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 a month. We offer 2–3 insects per head 1–2 times a week. If the animal shows signs of obesity, the frequency of feeding is reduced to 1 time per 2 weeks. There is always a water dish in the terrarium. 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. For females during ovogenesis we offer soft-shelled snails. 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. 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 a week before age of 1.5 months; 3 insects per head 1–2 times a week after age of 1.5 months. We add mineral supplements "Repashy" with D3 with every second feeding.
If problems with shedding in young individuals are detected, we spray them with a solution of the liquid vitamin and mineral product "Chiktonik" twice a week (2–5 sessions per day with concentration: 1 part of vitamin per 100 parts of water).
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: +18 - +19 °C at daytime and +16 - +17 °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 a day. Wintering lasts for 2,5-3 months. We offer 1 low-fat insect per head, 1 time a week. Winter withdrawal algorithm is reverse to input and lasts for 2 weeks. After that we form pairs.
U.ebenaui gain sexual maturity at the age of 18 months. Breeding season lasts from April to September. Females lay from 2 to 3 clutches per season (1–2 eggs in each). Females lay eggs in the substrate and cover them with dry foliage.
Gestation period is from 1 to 2 months and depend 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 +24 at night and +25 at day. Humidity is 75-85%. Incubation period is 75-80 days.
We keep juveniles separately. All keeping requirements are identical to those for adults. 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.
1..Frank Glaw, Miguel Vences. 2007: Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Madagascar. Vences & Glaw Verlag GbR 3rd Edition. 497 p. Germany.
2..Sacha Svatek and Susanna van Duin. 2001. Leaf-tailed geckos – the Genus Uroplatus. Brahmer-Verlag, 161 p. Germany.
3..Mocquard, F. 1894. Diagnoses de quelques reptiles nouveaux de Madagascar. C.R. Soc. Philom, 3-5pp. Paris 9.
4..Dubyna Anastasiia, Tkachev Dmitri, Neizhko Ivan, Nekrasova Oksana, Marushchak Oleksiі // Development of breeding techniques in herpetoculture as an approach to leaf-tailed 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.
5..Bauer A. M. 2013. Geckos - The Animal Answer Guide. Johns Hopkins University Press, 159 pp.
6..Böhme, Wolfgang 2014. Herpetology in Bonn. Mertensiella 21. vi + 256 pp.
7..Angel, F. 1942. Les Lézards de Madagascar, Mem. Acad. Malagache: Tananarive XXXVI, 193 pp.