The Parthenogenically Awesome Indo-Pacific Gecko, 13 August 2013

Hemidactylus garnotii, the Indo-Pacific gecko;
Volusia county, Florida (13 August 2013).

The Indo-Pacific gecko (Hemidactylus garnotii), also commonly referred to as Garnot’s house gecko, is a towering can of kick-ass awesomeness. It’s a species I regularly use as an example when I’m discussing the dangers of oppositional binaries (which are often bullshit) with my students.

Most people think of vertebrates as being male or female — and that reproduction is obtained through sexual activity between males and females (the male fertilizes the female via the ovum, and so on). Hell, I remember being taught that when I was a kid… The problem is, that’s not always the case. There are plenty of natural exceptions. Life is far more complicated than simplistic, easy-to-remember oppositional binaries and categories like “male” and “female.”

As it turns out, the Indo-Pacific gecko is a parthenogenic species. All Indo-Pacific geckos are actually female. There simply aren’t any male Indo-Pacific geckos anywhere in the world; they’re all female, and the species is evolved to create and birth viable offspring without any engagement from other gecko individuals (male or female). This is what parthenogenesis means — reproduction via the ovum without the need for fertilization (via sexual activity or some other means).

Parthenogenesis isn’t actually all that rare in the animal kingdom, and it certainly isn’t limited to non-vertebrates like insects and crustaceans. In fact, a number of shark, amphibian, reptile, and bird species have been confirmed to feature parthenogenic capabilities in the wild.

Non-native to Florida, Indo-Pacific geckos can be quite common in certain stretches of the Floridian peninsula (and elsewhere). I have a healthy population of them living on my back patio and windows in Ormond Beach, Florida — all females, every one of them. Each time I spot them, I’m subtly reminded of the bullshittery of simplistic thinking. It’s a good lesson to remember — that life is far more complicated than simple binaries and ancient assumptions. As a species playing around with self-governance, humans might do well to remember this because far too many of us are quick to dehumanize and delegitimize the integrity of others who biologically transcend the simplicity of “male” versus “female” gender or sex/biological classifications. Reality, which includes the human condition, is far more complicated (and beautiful) than simple oppositional binaries taught by archaic texts written in a time when people thought the world was a frisbee.

Life is far more complicated than any oppositional binary.

Of note: The last picture of this series (the side view, below) is of an Indo-Pacific gecko photographed on 11 August 2013 — for reference. The other pictures were of an individual photographed two days later. Also note that I’ve enhanced the color saturation on the ventral images to highlight the yellow and blue patterns of the Indo-Pacific gecko. In natural color, these hues are more subdued and subtle.

2 Comments on “The Parthenogenically Awesome Indo-Pacific Gecko, 13 August 2013

  1. Very interesting comments. I’ve always enjoyed your photography and now I’m enjoying learning some cool stuff as well. And as for the gecko photos, the geometric patterns are incredible.


    • Thanks, Jon. Geckos are pretty incredible across the board — from parthenogenesis to their wicked incredible toe pads (which I need to write about at some point). I’m with you, though — it’s the patterning that really floors me and my camera. Heh. Incredibly beautiful little organisms!


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