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Superregnum: Eukaryota
Cladus: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Cladus: Holozoa
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Megaclassis: Osteichthyes
Cladus: Sarcopterygii
Cladus: Rhipidistia
Cladus: Tetrapodomorpha
Cladus: Eotetrapodiformes
Cladus: Elpistostegalia
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Lepidosauromorpha
Superordo: Lepidosauria
Ordo: Squamata
Subordo: Gekkota
Infraordo: Pygopodomorpha

Familia: Diplodactylidae
Genus: Hoplodactylus
Species (2): H. duvaucelii – †H. delcourti

[source: Nielsen et al. (2011: 18)]

Hoplodactylus Fitzinger, 1843
Type species: Platydactylus duvaucelii Duméril & Bibron, 1836


Chambers, G.K.; Boon, W.M.; Buckley, T.R.; Hitchmough, R.A. 2001: Using molecular methods to understand the Gondwanan affinities of the New Zealand biota: three case studies. Australian journal of botany, 49: 377–387. DOI: 10.1071/BT00021
Chrapliwy, P.S.; Smith, H.M.; Grant, C. 1961: Systematic status of the geckonid lizard genera Gehyra, Peropus, Hoplodactylus and Naultinus. Herpetologica, 17(1): 5–12. JSTOR
Fitzinger, L.J.F.J. 1843: Systema Reptilium. Fasciculus primus. Amblyglossae. Braumüller et Seidel: Wien. BHL
Myers, G.S. 1961: The New Zealand lizard names Naultinus and Hoplodactylus. Herpetologica, 17: 169–172. JSTOR
Nielsen, S.V., Bauer, A.M., Jackman, T.R., Hitchmough, R.A., Daugherty, C.H. 2011. New Zealand geckos (Diplodactylidae): cryptic diversity in a post-Gondwanan lineage with trans-Tasman affinities. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 59(1): 1–22. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2010.12.007 Paywall. Reference page.
Robb, J. 1980: Three new species of gekkonid lizards, genera Hoplodactylus Fitzinger and Heteropholis Fischer, from New Zealand. National Museum of New Zealand records 1(19): 305-310.
Stephenson, N.G. 1948: A note on the occurrence of the genus Hoplodactylus Fitzinger in New Zealand. Records of the Auckland Institute and Museum, 3(4&5): 339–341, plate 63. [Publication date: 20 December 1948]

Hoplodactylus is a genus of gecko endemic to New Zealand, one of the seven genera of geckos found only in New Zealand. Hoplodactylus comprises two species of large to gigantic brownish lizards, one extinct and one surviving only on predator-free islands.


Species in this genus (now split into several genera) tend to have rather dull colouration with little variation on a generally brown/grey theme, although mottled greens are seen in some species, notably the forest gecko (Mokopirirakau granulatus). The one exception to this rule of general drabness in colouration is the striking "herring boned" colour pattern of green, brown, black and white that is displayed by the "Harlequin Gecko" (Tukutuku rakiurae).

Although generally species of this genus cannot compete with those of Naultinus in terms of their vivid and beautiful colouration, Hoplodactylus species do have the ability to subtly change their skin colour pattern to give better camouflage, thus reducing the risk of predation. "In some of the Hoplodactylus species, the ability to change colour provides a supplementary method of thermoregulation"(*1). When basking in cold conditions they can darken their skin to increase the amount of heat absorbed and conversely they can lighten the shades in hot weather to reflect more light and keep cool. All species in this genus have more or less nocturnal activity patterns in contrast to the solely diurnal nature of Naultinus species and unlike species in the latter genus, are not purely arboreal and will forage on the ground.

Hoplodactylus species do not have prehensile tails and are thus generally less reluctant to drop them when disturbed by predators than species in the genus Naultinus.

Many species of the genus Hoplodactylus also have toes that are broader and more expanded than do their relatives in the genus Naultinus.

The key differences between New Zealand's two endemic gecko genera are summarised in the table below

Hoplodactylus Naultinus
Mainly grey-brown Mainly green
Nocturnal Diurnal
Terrestrial - sometimes on tree trunks Arboreal: on foliage
Active-prey-searching Sit-and-wait predator
Fast moving Slow moving
Can change intensity of skin colour Skin colour intensity cannot be changed
Wide, non-prehensile tails - readily shed Narrow, tapering prehensile tails - reluctantly shed
Wider toe pad to assist climbing smooth surfaces in some species Thin toe pads adapted for grasping twigs and foliage

*references used for this table;[1][2]

Hoplodactylus duvaucelii is the largest species of gecko remaining in New Zealand, although due to predation by introduced mammals such as the brown rat their range is at present restricted to pest-free offshore islands.

The extinct kawekaweau/Delcourt's giant gecko Hoplodactylus delcourti was the largest known gecko in the world. It was first described in 1986, though the only known specimen was collected in the early 19th century but was overlooked in a French museum for more than a century.
Species list

†kawekaweau/Delcourt's giant gecko, Hoplodactylus delcourti (extinct)
Duvaucel's gecko, Hoplodactylus duvaucelii


George Gibbs, "Ghosts of Gondwana; the History of Life in New Zealand", Craig Potton publishing, 2006

Brian Gill and Tony Whitaker, "New Zealand Frogs and Reptiles", David Bateman publishing, 1996

New Zealand Geckos; A guide to captive maintenance and breeding, RPV Rowlands, Ecoprint, 1999
New Zealand frogs and reptiles, Brian Gill and Tony Whitaker, David Bateman publishers, 1996

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