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Does a Gecko Have a Backbone?

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Have you seen a gecko before? Geckos can appear to be so agile and flexible that they look like they do not have bones.

Even when they are threatened, they cut off their tails, which you might think is difficult if there are bones in the tail.

a yellow gecko looking back

Does a gecko have a backbone?

As vertebrate animals, geckos have backbones. Without bones, geckos would not be able to walk, stand, run, or have a definite shape. Their bodies are designed for flexibility and quick movements that help them survive.

What are vertebrate animals? How many kinds of geckos are there? Let’s take a closer look at these unique animals.

Does a Gecko Have a Backbone?

As vertebrate animals, geckos have a backbone.

Bones that make up the skeleton and body structure are fundamental, and without bones, these animals cannot stand, sit, run, or perform other vital activities.

a gecko sunbathing on a piece of wood

Geckos Are Vertebrates

Vertebrates are animals with a backbone made up of smaller bones called vertebrae. Such animals are in the phylum Chordata.

Here is a list of different classes of animals in phylum Chordata:

  • Pisces (Fishes): Sharks, catfish, tilapia
  • Amphibians (Frogs and Toads): Salamanders and newts
  • Reptilia (Reptiles): Lizards, snakes, turtles
  • Aves (Birds): Owls, vultures, pigeons, parrots
  • Mammalia (Mammals): Humans, lions, donkeys, monkeys, bats

As you can see from the list above, people are in the same phylum as geckos, which means we share some common traits. The major similarity between you and geckos is the possession of a backbone.

Talking about classification, do you know that there are over a thousand specials of geckos?

The list below contains the sub-families of geckos and how many species and genera are present in them:

  • Carphodactylidae: 28 species in 7 genera
  • Eublepharidae: 30 species in 6 genera
  • Diplodactylidae: 117 species in 19 genera
  • Phyllodactylidae: 117 species in 11 genera
  • Gekkonidae: 950 species in 52 genera
  • Sphaerodactylidae: 203 species in 11 genera
  • Pygopodidae (also known as the flap-footed lizards as they do not have forelimbs and only have vestigial hind legs): 41 species in 11 genera

What are the differences between geckos and lizards? Geckos are just a few families under the lizard order, Squamata (also the order of snakes).

Here are a few differences between lizards and geckos:

  • Geckos have sticky toes; lizards do not.
  • Geckos lay eggs in pairs; lizards lay in clusters.
  • Geckos can communicate with chirps and some other vocals; lizards cannot.

Skeleton of a Gecko

a skeleton of a gecko

Here is a fun fact: Geckos (just like other lizards) have around 28 bones. To put it into perspective, humans have 206 bones in their bodies.

Geckos have a backbone. They also have bones in their legs, head, and base of the tail.

Does the Tail of a Gecko Have a Bone?

Geckos, just like other lizards, have bones in their tails. The bone is connected to the spinal cord of the animal. The tail skeleton is made of bones.

The tail is flexible because there are so many joints in the skeleton. With more joints in the skeleton, an organism can move more freely.

Other Facts About Geckos

Here are some interesting gecko facts that you might find surprising:

1. A Gecko’s Tail is Regenerative

a gecko tail closeup

Well, not for all species. Many gecko species such as wall geckos can regrow their tails when they detach them.

When animals detach their tail to escape a predator, it is called “Caudal Autotomy”. “Caudal” refers to the tail, while “Autotomy” refers to cutting something off.

For the species that regrow their tail, they do not grow new bones. Instead of regrowing bones, they grow cartilage.

Cartilage is a material that is softer than bone. For example, your nose and ears are made with cartilage, so they are not as hard as other parts of your body made with bone.

Fish such as sharks and rays have skeletons made of cartilage.

2. Geckos Store Nutrients in Their Tail

You know that camels store nutrients in their humps. Geckos store nutrients, too, but these animals use their tails for the job.

When geckos eat and digest food, they store excess nutrients as fat in their tails. If they cannot find food to eat, their body metabolizes (digests or breaks down) the fat in their tail for energy.

gecko eating an unlucky cricket

3. Their Feet Are So Sticky That They Climb Slick and Smooth Surfaces

Aside from Teflon, there are very few materials that the toes of a gecko cannot stick to. Geckos climb glass, plastic, and other surfaces with ease.

Thanks to some microscope hair on their feet called setae, geckos can stick their feet on any surface. Setae are carefully lined in huge numbers on each toe of a gecko.

4. A Falling Gecko Will Mostly Land on Its Feet

In a recent research, two scientists from UC Berkley discovered that geckos will mostly land on their feet when they fall, thanks to their tails.

According to the research, geckos will tilt their tail toward the right angle to force their falling body into the correct position.

With this study, researchers and engineers can develop the stability of modern-day robots.

5. Geckos Are Omnivores

As omnivorous animals, geckos can eat food products from both plants and animals. Examples of food that geckos eat in the wild are:

  • Fruits
  • Insects
  • Silkworm
  • Mealworm
  • Flower nectar

A gecko’s specific diet depends on its species. Remember that there are thousands of different types of geckos, so their preferred feed differs.

gecko with tongue out closeup

Final Thoughts

Geckos are lizards with a few differences. Like other lizards, geckos have backbones and bones in their tails.

Most species of geckos are regenerative, so they can regrow their tail after losing it. When geckos grow a new tail, they do not grow new bones. Instead, they grow cartilage.