Do Geckos Change Colors?

Chameleons are well known by all of us especially because of their color-changing abilities. But have you ever wondered if there are other reptiles that can change colors and camouflage with their surroundings like chameleons?

You must have heard of Geckos. Yes, Geckos can do the same and sometimes even better than chameleons. They belong to the reptile family, and they make excellent pets. Geckos are nocturnal reptiles, and they are generally small in size and have soft skin. Geckos are a type of lizard but do not confuse them with any group of lizards.

Do Geckos Change Colors? The answer is – Yes. The geckos do change colors. Due to their vocalization and color-changing abilities, Geckos are set apart from others. There are thousands of species of geckos, and their abilities can differ from species to species. Some can change colors exquisitely, like chameleons, while some cannot, and some are yet to be discovered.

Geckos are said to be special because studies have found out that geckos can change their body colors even when they do not see their surroundings or even when they are blindfolded. Such ability makes geckos on-of-a-kind reptiles.

So now we know that geckos have color-changing abilities. Let us dig in deeper and find out more about them.

Which species of Geckos can change colors?

Like mentioned before, not all geckos can change colors. There are thousands of species of geckos, and only some can do it. And since all species are not fully discovered yet, it becomes hard to precisely identify which species can change colors and which cannot. But let us look into some of the popular ones that are recognized all over the world.

Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko

Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko is a very popular gecko that has deceived many people with its perfect mimicry of dead leaves. It is generally found in Madagascar and is one of the best at changing colors.

Its original body color is known to be light grey, but since it camouflages between leaves and trees, it can make an uncanny resemblance to dead leaves by turning itself into green, brown, or yellow colors.

Moorish Gecko

The Moorish gecko is one of the most commonly known color-changing geckos. They are usually referred to as the common wall gecko. They are generally found in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and some parts of Europe.

They can easily change colors to camouflage with their surroundings, but studies have found out that Moorish geckos usually change colors when they get cooler or do it as a reaction to changing light. But sometimes, it also changes colors when they feel threatened.

Gargoyle Gecko

Gargoyle geckos are a species of geckos that can change colors for several reasons. Gargoyle geckos are found generally in Southern New Caledonia. They can change colors depending on the environment, time, and how they feel. This phenomenon is usually called firing up.

They will change colors due to temperature, time of the day, or sometimes when they have mating intentions, and they would turn especially into vibrant colors. But sometimes, geckos can look completely white and pale when they are fired down.

These are some popularly known geckos. There are many others such as Crested gecko, African Fat-tailed Gecko, Tokay Gecko, etc.

Why and How do Geckos change colors?

While geckos and chameleons both change colors, geckos do it for many different reasons. Chameleons change colors at will, usually to show their dominance when communicating with other species or while looking for a mate, whereas geckos do it for completely different motives.

The main reason why geckos change colors is for their survival. Geckos are nocturnal creatures, and they face the need to protect themselves during the daytime. Since they usually spend their daytime in open areas like trees, leaves, or branches, they are vulnerable to predators and enemies. So, in order to rest or sleep without getting hunted down, they camouflage themselves into their surfaces and ensure their protection.

And due to such reasons, many geckos can make an extraordinary resemblance to trees, branches, and leaves and leave their predators confused and fooled. Some geckos are known to change colors even more vibrantly and precisely than chameleons.

However, studies have reported that geckos do not change colors only for their survival instincts. Geckos blend in not only to protect themselves from predators but also to prey on others. They camouflage themselves and wait for other small insects or lizards to fall prey to them. Their color-changing ability becomes a weapon for them when it comes to hunting.

Now, let us understand how geckos change their colors. The answer to this question was provided by Domenico Fulgione and his team when they collected several Moorish geckos and tested them. After several experiments, they found out that geckos do not use their vision to change colors. It was proved when the team blindfolded the Moorish geckos and left them on many different dark surfaces. It was observed that the geckos still changed colors.

But when the team tied up the torsos of the geckos, it resulted in no change. Thus, it was discovered that geckos sense their surroundings rather than seeing them. They use opsins, a light-sensitive protein present in their skins that helps them change colors and camouflage precisely.

However, some geckos can camouflage due to their already unique skin patterns and texture that look exactly similar to the surfaces they live on.

Can geckos change to all the colors?

It is hard to say that geckos can take up all colors. Since the coloration depends mainly on their original complexion, it is safe to say that geckos can change only to some limited colors.

The most common colors that geckos can change to are brown, yellow, and gray. These colors help them camouflage in their habitats which are usually trees, leaves, or branches.

Some geckos can change up to a limited number of colors and can further produce darker or lighter versions of those shades. But some geckos cannot change to different or vibrant colors. They can only darken or lighten their original complexion.


So we can conclude that geckos do change colors. Although similar to a chameleon, geckos have different reasons as to why and how they change colors and dominate them.

If you are into reptile husbandry, geckos can be a good choice. They are not very expensive and are easy to handle as they do not require any large tanks as their habitats.

So now you know that chameleons are not the only reptiles that can surprise you with their coloration abilities. Geckos are here to drop your jaws too.

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