Geckos cling best to, and prefer to use, rough surfaces

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Background: Fitness is strongly related to locomotor performance, which can determine success in foraging, mating, and other critical activities. Locomotor performance on different substrates is likely to require different abilities, so we expect alignment between species’ locomotor performance and the habitats they use in nature. In addition, we expect behaviour to enhance performance, such that animals will use substrates on which they perform well. Methods: We examined the associations between habitat selection and performance in three species of Oedura geckos, including two specialists, (one arboreal, and one saxicolous), and one generalist species, which used both rocks and trees. First, we described their microhabitat use in nature (tree and rock type) for these species, examined the surface roughnesses they encountered, and selected materials with comparable surface microtopographies (roughness measured as peak-to-valley heights) to use as substrates in lab experiments quantifying behavioural substrate preferences and clinging performance. Results: The three Oedura species occupied different ecological niches and used different microhabitats in nature, and the two specialist species used a narrower range of surface roughnesses compared to the generalist. In the lab, Oedura geckos preferred substrates (coarse sandpaper) with roughness characteristics similar to substrates they use in nature. Further, all three species exhibited greater clinging performance on preferred (coarse sandpaper) substrates, although the generalist used fine substrates in nature and had good performance capabilities on fine substrates as well. Conclusion: We found a relationship between habitat use and performance, such that geckos selected microhabitats on which their performance was high. In addition, our findings highlight the extensive variation in surface roughnesses that occur in nature, both among and within microhabitats.




Pillai, R., Nordberg, E., Riedel, J., & Schwarzkopf, L. (2020). Geckos cling best to, and prefer to use, rough surfaces. Frontiers in Zoology, 17(1).

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