The San Diego Zoo has just welcomed its first baby of 2011, hatched on New Year's Day. And while the satanic leaf-tailed gecko may sound menacing, the zoo is excited to have the newborn lizard.
The satanic leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus phantasticus) is native to the incredibly species-rich African island of Madagascar. The horns over the lizard's eyes are what earned the gecko its devilish name.
"All of the leaf-tailed geckos are camouflage specialists," said John Kinkaid, an animal care manger at the zoo. "Some have beards, others have patterns that mimic tree bark or moss, while this one has a tail that looks like a dead leaf. The horns above its eyes break up the silhouette of its body and make it harder for predators to find."
The satanic leaf-tailed gecko is also known as the eyelash leaf-tailed gecko or fantastic leaf-tailed gecko.
The satanic leaf gecko has the smallest body of the gecko species, with an average size of around 3.5 inches (9 centimeters), and they can range in color from yellow to purple.
"It's wonderful to be able to highlight this rarely bred creature," Kinkaid said.
In addition to this newest gecko, the San Diego zoo has two male, three female and three young satanic leaf-tailed geckos — the New Year's Day gecko's siblings, which hatched Dec. 26 — in its collection. [ See animal babies born at zoos in 2010 ]
The New Year's Day gecko weighed less than a gram and was smaller than a dime when it hatched. Currently, it has a number, 911001, but no name. Keepers do not yet know this gecko's gender or the gender of its siblings.
The satanic leaf-tailed geckos are not currently on exhibit, but will be when renovations of the zoo's Klauber Building, where the zoo's reptiles are kept, are completed.