Mourning Gecko Handling & Body Language

Handling Tips

Mourning geckos make far better display specimens than handleable pets. They’re tiny, lightning fast, and very delicate, so handling should be restricted to when absolutely necessary. In fact, they’ve even earned a nickname: “pocket rockets.”

That being said, some keepers have managed to train their mourning geckos to tolerate handling without bolting. They did so by introducing their hand in the terrarium and keeping it there for a few minutes each day. Once the geckos became accustomed to their presence, they picked them up (still inside the enclosure). And only after the geckos stopped freaking out in hand did they take them out.

So, handling mourning geckos has been and can be done. But this takes a lot of effort and patience, and at the end of the day, I still don’t recommend it. They’re more fun to watch, anyway.

The Ultimate Mourning Gecko Care Guide - Mourning Gecko Handling Tips

Photo used with permission from my.little.creatures

Body Language

Because mourning geckos live in colonies, they demonstrate a wide variety of ways to “talk” to each other (insert lame joke about women being chatty here). They squeak, they chirp, and they argue, but fortunately they rarely injure each other (except for hatchlings, which we’ll get to at the end). This makes them tons of fun to watch!

Chirping/squeaking: This is a primary method of communication between mourning geckos. They seem to have 2 types of chirps — one is a sound like a chick peeping, and the other is like a mouse squeaking. They will frequently perform a certain call at night, which is a chirp 5-10 times in sequence.

Hunting: A mourning gecko in “hunting mode” will sometimes wiggle or wave her tail. It is not clear whether this is simply a hunting reflex (as with leopard geckos) or a luring mechanism.

Establishing pecking order: Every colony of mourning geckos has a hierarchy from the matriarch (“top dog”) to the peon. Like a pack of wolves, the exact order of this hierarchy is always in flux, with females constantly challenging each other for the best hiding spots and access to food. Behaviors associated with these challenges include tail waving, vocalizing, tail/back arching, and charging one another.

Pseudocopulation: Every once in a while, you may notice two geckos engaging in what looks a lot like mating. And yes, this is how baby mourning geckos are made, but it is done by the females “stimulating” each other rather than any kind of insemination occurring. The result is two gravid (pregnant) geckos.

The Ultimate Mourning Gecko Care Guide - Mourning Gecko Body Language

(Pseudocopulation?) Photo used with permission from Helen Keeling of Blackwater Exotics

Fun fact: mourning geckos are cannibalistic

Many animals eat younger members of their species — lions, cane toads, Mexican lance-headed rattlesnakes, shrimp, chimpanzees, and apparently, mourning geckos. It’s not always clear why animals turn to cannibalism. Sometimes a mother animal will eat her babies if they get sick or die. Sometimes animals will kill/eat babies if there aren’t enough resources to go around.

I imagine the latter is the reason why mourning geckos occasionally eat their young: in order to reduce the number of individuals in the colony and ensure there’s enough resources (ex: food) to go around.


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