Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
Vol 2, Issue 13    
September, 2006
Hawaii Geck O – A Detective Story
In this Issue

by Michelle “McGarrett” Nash

I was cleaning the kitchen to host the Ladies Bunco Night at my house a few weeks age when I spied the Tupperware container filled with sea shells, snail shells and bits and pieces of treasures we found on the beaches in Hawaii.

When leaving Hawaii, I had carefully packed these sea shells and other treasures in the container by layering everything with tissue paper so nothing would break. So by now I'm thinking, "Jeez! It's been 2 months since we got back and I need to open that up and divvy up the sea shells and stuff and tell the kids to take them to their rooms and get them out of the kitchen." It could be a bit smelly too!

But when I open it up, out jumps this tiny little lizard! OMG!! Where the heck did this come from? Then, after securing her, I realize there's another one! After some research, I found they were "Mourning Geckos". We saw lots of them at night in Hawaii, but did not intend to bring any home to Chicago and if fact, as far as we knew, we didn't bring any Geckos home. So where did these come from?

Apparently the snail shells we collected had gecko eggs in them (this type of gecko tends to lay 2 eggs at a time). They were clearly only recently hatched and they were very thirsty.

I could not believe it! Of all the people for this to happen to, what were the chances of this set of circumstances happening? That they would be found by a reptile enthusiast and keeper, not some housewife who would've screamed and squashed them? That, after having no direct fresh air for 2 months, no extra humidity (and humidity is a big requirement to hatch reptile eggs), being jostled around a piece of luggage at 30 thousand feet (probably with no temperature control too) for more than 8 hours of flight, plus a connecting flight where the luggage was bounced around even more, then sat in my kitchen virtually undisturbed for 2 months (they need 2 months to hatch and must be undisturbed during the incubation or they could die) they manage to survive and hatch?

It was like the sun and moon and stars and everything had to line up just right for these little cuties to survive and hatch. This was just too bizarre!

I just couldn’t get over this! The only thing that made sense to me was that there was some extra moisture in the container from the wet snail shells as I had thoroughly rinsed them out before packing to remove any rotting, smelly dead-snail remnants and I didn't want them to stink in the container. Other than the naturally humid air from Hawaii, there was no other moisture.

Ironically, my daughter pleaded with me in Hawaii to let her keep one for a pet and I said, "No, I think it's probably against the law. They won't let critters into Hawaii and they probably don't want any leaving either." So, while we enjoyed taking photos of them there, contrary to our intentions, we have little castaways/stowaways here in our house.

It turns out this type of lizard is parthenogenic so they don't need males to reproduce. They're all female. They make little genetic replicas of themselves and so in 8-10 months, at maturity, they will start doing their thing and making more! (I think, since they are little castaways we should call them "MaryAnn and Ginger", from Gilligan's Island) We have "a little piece of Hawaii" right here in my home.

Like any good detective, I needed to know more. Rather than destroy all the snail shells searching for the gecko egg remains, I used a dental mirror (the kind with a tiny mirror on the end of a stick) and I held it just inside the snail shell openings until I found which one had evidence of eggs being attached deep inside the interior walls. I soon found one snail shell had what appeared to be gecko egg remnants and 2 more gecko eggs inside. These little lizards are known to lay eggs communally but I wasn't aware of that till I found these two egg shells and did more internet research. I was saddened to think I might have now doomed two gecko hatchlings to death since I'd been turning the snail shells over and moving them around a lot. Remember, I was looking for evidence of where my hatchlings came from, I wasn't thinking there'd be more eggs.

After shining light through the gecko egg shells it didn't seem to me there was anything actually inside the gecko shells. There were no embryonic shadows in them, nor evidence of veins and the shells were dry and hard to the touch so I carefully broke one open. I discovered they were nothing but dried gecko eggs. Apparently they had expired long ago as there was nothing left inside them but a tiny dot of dried mucous. Well, I assume they were both dried out and expired, though I didn't break the second one open, because I had gently prodded and tapped on it and it felt and sounded dried and hollow.

I also noted there were dried remnants of gecko egg-shell attached to the snail shell walls. These remnants were next to the dried gecko eggs and I assume that is where my stowaway gecko hatchlings came from. I read an article that said gecko hatchlings may eat their shells after hatching. It would appear that was the case since there were no shell fragments falling out of the snail shell when I first examined them all, and again, there was nothing left but the tiny bit of shell fragment that was "glued" to the wall of the snail shell. There were no other snail shells with gecko eggs or remnants that I could see.

It's also interesting to note a couple other things I found out recently. The snail shell that had the eggs in it was the shell of an aquatic snail, according to Steve Sullivan of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago Illinois. He said they must have been left on land by predators after having a meal of snails. When I thought about it, it made sense. Where I found the shells were near ponds that were teaming with snails and were surrounded with coconut trees and lush tropical vegetation, the preferred habitat of the adults. Also, the two locations I found these snail shells were consistently moist so it would be an excellent place for the eggs to be laid.

One location was under the garden bushes of the resort where we stayed (there were water sprinklers there and man-made ponds) and the other was near the edge of a natural marshy pond, not far from the shore. It is also interesting to note that mourning gecko eggs are known to be tolerant of salt water too, so if the surf made its way up over the beach to the marshy pond it would not adversely affect these gecko eggs. Also, this data helps explain one of the theories of their introduction to the Hawaiian Islands 1,500 years ago. The theory suggests that eggs could have been attached to bark or wood that was washed into the ocean and drifted to the islands. And, since they are parthenogenic, there did not need to be a male and female miraculously arriving on shore together. With these little gals, you only need one to start a whole new population!

My hatchlings are now about 3 weeks old and it's great fun watching them pounce on the pinhead crickets and fruit flies. They are amazing acrobats and they leap and run at lightening speeds. Even at this tiny size they are incredibly hard to capture if they escape. One of the two geckos has begun to tame down a bit. I'm guessing she must be Ginger (the less shy castaway!). She does not run and hide whenever the cage is opened. The other, MaryAnn, remains hidden most of the day until dark and then only remains outside her hiding place as long as no one disturbs her.


mourning gecko on coconut shell
newly hatched mourning gecko
snail sheel that helg mourning gecko eggs mourning gecko eggs inside shell
Click on images to open them in new browser window. They are large so be patient.


Michelle is an avid reptile keeper in the Chicagoland area. She stays involved in the Chicago Herpetological Society and has had writings published in the CHS Bulletin. She has done educational presentations for local grade schools and exhibited at North America's largest educational reptile show, ReptileFest, held in Chicago during April each year. She is a wife and mother and has been a nature enthusiast since the age of 7, when she spied her first coral snake in a pine forest of the southern U.S.

Injection Tips and Techniques for Reptiles

by Helena Brusic

(with thanks to Dr. David Vella, North Shore Veterinary Specialist Centre, Sydney)

In the never ending drama of Alex the coastal carpet python, we both learnt the value of proper sheds - and that means right to the very tips of his tail..... You miss the tip, and an infection can occur. This happened to Alex.

With all the stories of people saying that coastal carpets can handle cooler temperatures, I soon got to learn the truth of the matter, and that is the importance of HEAT and HUMIDITY, and how lack of these can cause bad shedding problems.

Alex is now an amputee, with loads of stitches. He will get over it, his tail will look relatively normal in a few years, but I can't help but look in the mirror at who is responsible for putting him in so much pain. Oh, he's a good snake, he's forgiven me for it, he even refuses to leave my neck, and still gives me lots of kisses, was a close one.

As part of his ongoing treatment, and my penance, I have to inject Alex every 3 days for a while, and I thought I would pass on the instructions given to me by Dr David Vella an exotics vet from North Shore Veterinary Specialist Centre Sydney.

Pre-Injection Preparation:
1. Frozen medication should be warmed in your hand before injecting.
2. Make sure the needle is firmly attached to the syringe before injecting.
3 Hold the syringe vertically with the needle uppermost, and flick the barrel to dispel any air in the syringe.

General Injection Technique:
1. Swab the injection site with an alcohol swab.
2. Restrain the animal firmly but gently for the injection process.
3. Hold the needle at the syringe "spade" side up (the flat side with the groove)
4. Needles only need to be inserted a few millimetres.
5. Once the needle has to inserted into the animal, pull the plunger slightly backwards to ensure that NO blood is drawn up (you don't want to hit a vein here).
6. Slowly push the plunger of the syringe to inject the medication.
7. Gently massage the injection site to help disperse the medication.
8. Repeatedly injecting the same site (Batril is particularly prone to aggravating this problem) can cause abscesses at the injection site, so vary sides and sites.

Injection sites:

-Use the front half of the body.
-Choose an injection site halfway between the spine/middle back and the side.
-Aim the needle between the scales, rather than through them (needle tip should be inserted under the scale)
-Aim the needle towards the head of the animal once the skin has been penetrated.

-The loose skin near the shell margins or the fore or hind limbs and the skin overlying the front part of the plastron can be used.

1. You may see a little bit of blood on the skin after the injection - this is OK. Apply pressure.
2. Swap needles if medication gets stuck, and make sure the medication has been warmed in your hands.

Helena is an reptile enthusiast and owner of very friendly and playful pythons called Alex, Hayden, Rowan and Bella. Helena is the founder and creative director of Kali7Design

In the News
Tell Us What You Think!

If you have a story about one of your critters, funny or serious, found a great web site, found a great article or would like to contribute in any way, please contact me. I'm friendly, don't bite and would welcome your contributions.

And of course, if you have any suggestions for upcoming issues that you'd like to share with us, please send those too!

These could include:
- Great herp web-sites
- A fantastic herp article you know of that should be shared
- Why you pet reptile is fantastic
- A great idea you had
- Funny things that happened
- Dumb**s things that happened
- Images you'd like to share
- Care sheets for your herp

Remember - there are lots of people who would love to hear your stories. Just e-mail me at: Reptile-Cage-Plans


Tell Us What You Think!!

Thanks to those who have given me feedback. I always want to
know of your achievements, good and bad.

There has been some updates to the rock wall construction for
booklet your reptile cage to include an alternative finish
that dries hard, does not crack and looks even more like a
rock wall.

I am currently finalising a book on making glass vivariums
and how to decorate them to look like a desert vivarium.

The digrammatic plans are complete for an arboreal display
cage with side doors and a large glass front. The
construction, imaging and documentation of the cages now
needs to be undertaken.

Thank you to those people who continue to give me feedback
and help others in their endeavours. You know who you are
so well done!!

I have a few ideas for some other additions to the book and
perhaps some other publications but I would love your input.

These could include:

  • Great herp web-sites
  • Why you pet reptile is fantastic
  • Funny things that happened
  • Dumb**s things that happened (like the one in this issue)
  • Images you'd like to share.

Remember - there are lots of people who would love to hear your stories. Just e-mail me at: Reptile-Cage-Plans

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