Published October 10, 2019. Updated November 13, 2023. Open access. Peer-reviewed.

Gallery ❯

Common House-Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus)

Reptiles of Ecuador | Sauria | Gekkonidae | Hemidactylus frenatus

English common names: Common House-Gecko, Asian House-Gecko.

Spanish common names: Geco común de casa, salamanquesa común.

Recognition: ♂♂ 13.5 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=6.5 cm. ♀♀ 12.4 cmMaximum distance from the snout to the tip of the tail. Snout–vent length=6.0 cm..1 House geckos (genus Hemidactylus) can be identified from other lizards in Ecuador by their nocturnal habits, spine-like scales on the tail, expanded subdigital lamellae, lack of eyelids, and preference for man-made structures.2,3 Hemidactylus frenatus differs from H. mabouia by having low, rather than large and trihedral, tubercles on the dorsal surface of the body and tail and by lacking tubercles on the side of the head (Fig. 1).

Figure showing variation among individuals of Hemidactylus frenatus

Figure 1: Individuals of Hemidactylus frenatus: Parque Nacional Soberanía, Panamá province, Panamá (); Churute, Guayas province, Ecuador (); Puerto Ayora, Galápagos province, Ecuador (). j=juvenile.

Natural history: Hemidactylus frenatus is a nocturnal gecko that exhibits peak activity at dusk, dawn, and during warmer months.47 It occurs in high densities on walls, ceilings near electric lights,8,12,13 as well as on boulders and trees in human-altered environments1214 spanning various lowland habitats, from deserts and rainforests to plantations.1517 In daylight, these geckos remain concealed within crevices, lamps, beneath rocks, rotting logs, or virtually any object hanging vertically.18 Common House-Geckos are opportunistic predators that feed primarily on arthropods lured by artificial light sources,8,13,19 but also on mollusks and smaller geckos, including conspecifics.2123 When threatened, they swiftly retreat into crevices or beneath surface objects, readily shedding their tails if captured.5,24 Throughout their range, Common House-Geckos fall prey to a variety of predators, including cats, snakes, rats, dogs, spiders, birds, praying mantids, and larger lizards,25,26 while also contending with parasitization by protozoans, mites, and various worms.2730 Males exhibit social and aggressive behavior, employing calls and tail movements to attract females and establish and maintain territories.5,10,31,32 Females can store sperm for extended periods after mating,33 producing clutches of two water-resistant eggs throughout the year in tropical regions.18,34 These eggs are deposited in communal nesting sites, such as crevices, thatched roofs, or under ground debris, with a typical incubation period of 45 to 90 days.1

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Conservation: Least Concern Believed to be safe from extinction given current circumstances..12 Hemidactylus frenatus is listed in this category because this species is widely-distributed, thrives in human-modified environments,36 and is expanding into new areas. As an invader, H. frenatus competitively displaces native geckos8,37,38 and other previously introduced species,21,3941 often leading to their local extirpation.9,26,42 Populations of the Common House-Gecko have exploded following expansion of urban areas,26 and they are likely to keep thriving under current scenarios of global warming.42 They also have spread with the aid of commercial ships and cargo8,26,35 and have become naturalized on numerous islands.26,34 From a human-centered perspective, a positive outcome of the increased population densities of H. frenatus is the reduction in the number of pest insects such as mosquitoes and cockroaches.43

Distribution: Hemidactylus frenatus is native to Southeast Asia,36 but has been introduced to the Americas, Africa, Australia,26 and a number of tropical islands across the globe.12,26 In Ecuador, Common House-Geckos have become naturalized on more than 100 towns and cities (Fig. 2),44 including those in the Galápagos (Fig. 3).45

Distribution of Hemidactylus frenatus in mainland Ecuador

Figure 2: Distribution of Hemidactylus frenatus in mainland Ecuador. See Appendix 1 for a complete list of the presence localities included in the map.

Distribution of Hemidactylus frenatus in Galápagos

Figure 3: Distribution of Hemidactylus frenatus in Galápagos. See Appendix 1 for a complete list of the presence localities included in the map.

Etymology: The generic name Hemidactylus comes from the Greek words hemisys (=half) and daktylos (=finger).46 It probably refers to the rows of skin folds under these geckos’ digits,18 which are grouped in two halves. The specific epithet frenatus, which comes from the Latin frenum (=bridle) and the suffix -atus (=provided with),46 refers to the color pattern of the face.47

See it in the wild: Common House-Geckos can be seen year-round in and around buildings throughout their localities of occurrence in Ecuador. They have, for example, colonized the buildings of Yasuní Scientific Station. The best time to look for this species is just after sunset.

Special thanks to Laetitia Buscaylet for symbolically adopting the Common House-Gecko and helping bring the Reptiles of Ecuador book project to life.

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Authors: Alejandro ArteagaaAffiliation: Khamai Foundation, Quito, Ecuador. and Juan M GuayasaminbAffiliation: Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Quito, Ecuador.

Academic reviewers: Kenneth PetrencAffiliation: University of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. and Caty Frenkel

Photographer: Jose VieiradAffiliation: Tropical Herping (TH), Quito, Ecuador.,eAffiliation: ExSitu, Quito, Ecuador.

How to cite? Arteaga A, Guayasamin JM (2023) Common House-Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus). In: Arteaga A, Bustamante L, Vieira J (Eds) Reptiles of Ecuador: Life in the middle of the world. Available from: DOI: 10.47051/YIZG6866

Literature cited:

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  2. von May R, Venegas PJ, Chávez G, Costa GC (2021) Range expansion of the invasive Tropical House Gecko, Hemidactylus mabouia (Squamata: Gekkonidae), in South America. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 15: 323–334.
  3. Avila-Pires TCS (1995) Lizards of Brazilian Amazonia (Reptilia: Squamata). Zoologische Verhandelingen 299: 1–706.
  4. Malkmus R, Manthey U, Vogel G, Hoffmann P, Kosuch J (2002) Amphibians and reptiles of Mount Kinabalu (North Borneo). Gantner Verlag, Ruggell, 424 pp.
  5. Frenkel C (2006) Hemidactylus frenatus (Squamata: Gekkonidae): call frequency, movement and condition of tail in Costa Rica. Revista de Biología Tropical 54: 1125–1130.
  6. Bustard HR (1970) Activity cycle of the tropical house gecko Hemidactylus frenatus. Copeia 1970: 173–176. DOI: 10.2307/1441987
  7. Synder GK, Weathers WW (1976) Physiological responses to temperature in the tropical lizard, Hemidactylus frenatus (Sauria: Gekkonidae). Herpetologica 32: 252–257.
  8. Case TJ, Bolger DT, Petren K (1994) Invasions and competitive displacement among house geckos in the Tropical Pacific. Ecology 75: 464–477. DOI: 10.2307/1939550
  9. Cole NC, Jones CG, Harris S (2005) The need for enemy-free space: the impact of an invasive gecko on island endemics. Biological Conservation 125: 467–474. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2005.04.017
  10. Marcellini DL (1970) Ethoecology of Hemidactylus frenatus (Sauria, Gekkonidae) with emphasis on acoustic behavior. PhD thesis, Oklahoma, United States, University of Oklahoma.
  11. Werner YL (1990) Do gravid females of oviparous gekkonid lizards maintain elevated body temperatures? Hemidactylus frenatus and Lepidodactylus lugubris on Oahu. Amphibia-Reptilia 11: 200–204.
  12. Wogan G, Sumontha M, Phimmachak S, Lwin K, Neang T, Stuart BL, Thaksintham W, Caicedo JR, Rivas G, Tjaturadi B, Iskandar D (2021) Hemidactylus frenatus. The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Available from: DOI: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2021-3.RLTS.T99156022A1434103.en
  13. Petren K, Case TJ (1998) Habitat structure determines competition intensity and invasion success in gecko lizards. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 95: 11739–11744. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.95.20.11739
  14. Keim LD (2002) Spatial distribution of the introduced Asian House Gecko across suburban/forest edges. PhD thesis, Brisbane, Australia, University of Queensland.
  15. Dutton R (1980) The herpetology of the Chagos archipelago. British Journal of Herpetology 6: 133–134.
  16. Henkel FW, Schmidt W (1995) Geckoes. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, 237 pp.
  17. Spawls S, Howell KM, Drewes RC, Ashe J (2001) A field guide to the reptiles of East Africa. Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 544 pp.
  18. Grismer LL (2002) Amphibians and reptiles of Baja California. University of California Press, London, 96 pp.
  19. Tyler MJ (1961) On the diet and feeding habits of Hemidactylus frenatus (Duméril and Bibron) (Reptilia: Gekkonidae) at Rangoon, Burma. Transactions of The Royal Society of South Australia 84: 45–49.
  20. Díaz-Pérez J, Sampedro-Marín A, Ramírez-Pinilla M (2017) Actividad reproductiva y dieta de Hemidactylus frenatus (Sauria: Gekkonidae) en el norte de Colombia. Papéis Avulsos De Zoologia 57: 459–472. DOI: 10.11606/0031-1049.2017.57.36
  21. Bolger DT, Case TJ (1992) Intra and interspecific interference behaviour among sexual and asexual geckos. Animal Behavior 44: 21–30. DOI: 10.1016/S0003-3472(05)80750-X
  22. McCoid MJ, Hensley RA (1993) Shifts in activity patterns in lizards. Herpetological Review 24: 87–88.
  23. Díaz JA, Dávila JA, Álvarez DM, Sampedro AC (2012) Dieta de Hemidactylus frenatus (Sauria: Gekkonidae) en un área urbana de la región Caribe colombiana. Acta Zoológica Mexicana 28: 613-616.
  24. Valencia JH, Garzón K (2011) Guía de anfibios y reptiles en ambientes cercanos a las estaciones del OCP. Fundación Herpetológica Gustavo Orcés, Quito, 268 pp.
  25. Barquero MD, Hilje B (2005) House Wren preys on introduced gecko in Costa Rica. The Wilson Bulletin 117: 204–205. DOI: 10.1676/04-084
  26. Csurhes S, Markula A (2009) Pest animal risk assessment of the Asian House Gecko. Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries, Queensland, 20 pp.
  27. Domrow R (1992) Acari Prostigmata (excluding Trombiculidae) parasitic on Australian vertebrates: an annotated checklist, keys and bibliography. Invertebrate Taxonomy 4: 1283–1376. DOI: 10.1071/IT9901283
  28. Domrow R (1992) Acari Astigmata (excluding feather mites) parasitic on Australian vertebrates: an annotated checklist, keys and bibliography. Invertebrate Taxonomy 6: 1459–1606. DOI: 10.1071/IT9921459
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  30. Barton DP (2007) Pentastomid parasites of the introduced Asian House Gecko, Hemidactylus frenatus (Gekkonidae), in Australia. Comparative Parasitology 74: 254–259. DOI: 10.1654/4209.1
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  32. Frankenberg E, Marcellini DL (1990) Comparative analysis of the male multiple click calls of colonizing house geckos Hemidactylus turcicus from the southern U.S.A and Israel and Hemidactylus frenatus. Israel Journal of Zoology 37: 107–118. DOI: 10.1080/00212210.1990.10688646
  33. Murphy-Walker S, Haley SR (1995) Functional sperm storage duration in female Hemidactylus frenatus (Family Gekkonidae). Herpetologica 52: 365–373.
  34. Ota H (1994) Female reproductive cycles in the northernmost populations of the two gekkonid lizards, Hemidactylus frenatus and Lepidodactylus lugubris. Ecological Research 9: 121–130. DOI: 10.1007/BF02347487
  35. Hunsaker D (1966) Notes on the population expansion of the House Gecko, Hemidactylus frenatus. Philippine Journal of Science 95: 121–122.
  36. Lunney D, Peggy E, Hutchins P, Burgin S (2007) Pest or guest: The zoology of overabundance. Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Sydney, 270 pp.
  37. Perry G, Rodda GH, Fritts TH, Sharp TR (1998) The lizard fauna of Guam’s fringing islets: island biogeography, phylogenetic history, and conservation implications. Global Ecology and Biogeography 7: 353–365. DOI: 10.2307/2997683
  38. Greer AE (1989) The biology and evolution of Australian lizards. Surrey Beatty, Chipping Norton, 264 pp.
  39. Kraus F (2009) Alien reptiles and amphibians: a scientific compendium and analysis. Springer, New York, 563 pp.
  40. Brown S, Lebrun R, Yamasaki J, Ishii-Thoene D (2002) Indirect competition between a resident unisexual and an invading bisexual gecko. Behavior 139: 1161–1173.
  41. Petren K, Case TJ (1996) An experimental demonstration of exploitation competition in an ongoing invasion. Ecology 77: 118–132. DOI: 10.2307/2265661
  42. Rödder D, Solé M, Böhme W (2008) Predicting the potential distributions of two alien invasive house geckos (Gekkonidae: Hemidactylus frenatus, Hemidactylus mabouia). North-Western Journal of Zoology 4: 236–246.
  43. Canyon DV, Hii JLK (1997) The gecko: an environmentally friendly biological agent for mosquito control. Medical and Veterinary Entomology 11: 319–323.
  44. Jadin R, Altamirano MA, Yánez-Muñoz MH, Smith E (2009) First record of the common house gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus) in Ecuador. Applied Herpetology 6: 193–195. DOI: 10.15560/7.4.470
  45. Torres-Carvajal O, Tapia W (2011) First record of the common house gecko Hemidactylus frenatus Schlegel, 1836 and distribution extension of Phyllodactylus reissii Peters, 1862 in the Galápagos. Check List 7: 470–472. DOI: 10.15560/7.4.470
  46. Brown RW (1956) Composition of scientific words. Smithsonian Books, Washington, 882 pp.
  47. Duméril AMC, Bibron B (1836) Erpétologie générale, ou, Histoire naturelle complète des reptiles. Encyclopédique Roret, Paris, 430 pp. DOI: 10.5962/bhl.title.45973

Appendix 1: Locality data used to create the distribution map of Hemidactylus frenatus in Ecuador (Fig. 2). Go to the section on symbols and abbreviations for a list of acronyms used.

ColombiaNariñoBarbacoasiNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaNariñoCorregimiento RemolinoCaicedo-Portilla & Dulcey-Cala 2011
ColombiaNariñoEl RemolinoiNaturalist; photo examined
ColombiaNariñoMilagrosUPTC 2019
ColombiaNariñoTumacoCaicedo-Portilla & Dulcey-Cala 2011
ColombiaPutumayoBajo MansoyáGeoPark 3513; Cahueño & Barbosa 2022
EcuadorAzuayRecinto Las BrisasiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorCañarEl ChorroReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorEl OroHuaquillasiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEl OroMachalaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEl OroPalmales NuevoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEl OroPasajeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEl OroPetroEcuador La VictoriaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEl OroPiñasiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEl OroSanta Isabel, 18 km WSW ofCM 117837; VertNet
EcuadorEl OroSanta RosaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEsmeraldasAtacamesiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEsmeraldasBuncheiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEsmeraldasCastelnouvoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorEsmeraldasDurangoTorres-Carvajal & Salazar-Valenzuela 2012
EcuadorEsmeraldasEsmeraldasiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEsmeraldasHacienda CucarachaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorEsmeraldasItapoa ReservePhoto by Rául Nieto
EcuadorEsmeraldasLas PeñasiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEsmeraldasLote RoseroReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorEsmeraldasMompicheiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEsmeraldasPlaya EscondidaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorEsmeraldasQuingüeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEsmeraldasQuinindéiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEsmeraldasSameiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorEsmeraldasSan LorenzoJadin et al. 2009
EcuadorEsmeraldasTonsupaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorEsmeraldasTundaloma LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorGalápagosEco Friendly hotelReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorGalápagosEl ProgresoArteaga et al. 2019
EcuadorGalápagosHacienda La SoledadiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGalápagosPuerto AyoraArteaga et al. 2019
EcuadorGalápagosPuerto VillamilArteaga et al. 2019
EcuadorGalápagosUSFQ stationArteaga et al. 2019
EcuadorGuayasAlboradaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasCerro BlancoCarvajal-Campos and Torres-Carvajal 2010
EcuadorGuayasChongónReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorGuayasCiudad CelesteiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasComuna BellavistaQCAZ 13217; Pazmiño Otamendi 2020
EcuadorGuayasData de PosorjaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasEl EmpalmeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasEl TriunfoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasGeneral VillamiliNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasIngenio San CarlosCarvajal-Campos and Torres-Carvajal 2010
EcuadorGuayasIsla SantayPhoto by Eduardo Zavala
EcuadorGuayasMilagroiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasPlayas VillamiliNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasPS ChuruteReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorGuayasPuerto del MorroiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorGuayasVirgen de FátimaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLojaLojaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLojaMalacatosiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLojaMercadilloiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLos RíosCentro Científico Río PalenqueReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorLos RíosJaunechePhoto by Keyko Cruz
EcuadorLos RíosLos Ángeles, 4 km W ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorLos RíosQuevedoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíAyampeiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíBahía de CaráqueziNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíCanoaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíCocosoloReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíCojimíesReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíCuriaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíJama CampayReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíLa BarquitaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíLa CrespaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíLa MaparaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíMantaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíMuracumboiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíPedernalesJadin et al. 2009
EcuadorManabíPlaya NuestraiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíPortoviejoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíPuerto CayoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíPuerto LópeziNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíPunta PrietaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorManabíRío CanoaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorManabíSalinasiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorMorona SantiagoMacasQCAZ 16544; Pazmiño Otamendi 2020
EcuadorNapoArchidonaPhoto by Diego Piñán
EcuadorNapoArosemena TolaReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorNapoBaezaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorNapoPuerto BarantillaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorNapoTenaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaCampo SPF Río YasuníiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaDayumaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaEdéniNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaEl CocaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaLaguna TaracoaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaNuevo RocafuerteReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorOrellanaPindoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaTaracoaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorOrellanaYarina LodgeReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorOrellanaYasuní Scientific StationReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorPastazaPuyoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaRío PiatúaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPastazaVillano K32Dueñas et al. 2018
EcuadorPichinchaConocotoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPichinchaHacienda El ParaísoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPichinchaMilpe Bird SanctuaryiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorPichinchaPuerto QuitoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSanta ElenaPunta BlancaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSanta ElenaSalinasiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasEl CisneiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSanto Domingo de los TsáchilasHotel Santo DomingoiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosEstación ShuaraiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosLago AgrioiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosLimoncochaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosPalmeras NorteiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosRecinto Amazonas, 2 km NE ofiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosRío SingueiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosSan Pedro de los CofanesiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosSevillaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosShushufindiiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosTarapoaiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorSucumbíosVicinity of DurenoReptiles of Ecuador book database
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeCampamento Las PeñasDueñas et al. 2018
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeEl PanguiiNaturalist; photo examined
EcuadorZamora ChinchipeYantzazaiNaturalist; photo examined
PerúPiuraPiuraiNaturalist; photo examined