Reptile Ravings


 A Guide to Australian Geckos and Pygopods in Captivity - Book Review

Thursday, December 13, 2012

John McGrath looks at another new title from ‘Gecko Dan’:  This volume forms part of a new series of eleven titles which cover Australian reptiles in captivity; there is also a dedicated book on health and diseases and another on invertebrates. Danny Brown is a leading authority on Australian geckos and this is a significant publication which has been keenly anticipated by geckophiles.


The book has been printed on a quality coated stock, and my first impression on a casual glance through the pages was of the fine clarity and colour of the many photos used. Not only are there a large number of exceptional images of the various species described (including some morphs that I had not seen before), but also close-up photography (often with markers or diagrams superimposed) has been cleverly used to illustrate various structures or techniques and to supplement the text. For example, there are some great shots of egg candling and discussions on sexing various species are aided in a number of instances by clear photographs of hemipenal bulges and paracloacal spurs. Photographic evidence has also been used to effect to assist in determining the differences between similar species and subspecies, for example the subspecies of Nephrurus levis, the species of Thick-tailed or Barking Geckos, the subspecies of Strophurus ciliaris and the species of Strophurus taenicauda. In addition, there are also a god number of photos of gravid animals (including pygopods), eggs, hatchlings and great close-ups of structures such as endolymphatic calcium sacs and the adhesive tail lamellae of Pseudothecadactylus species. Other favourites of mine include the sequence of pictures of Rhynchoedura inhabiting a spider burrow and the side-by-side comparison of juvenile versus adult colouration for a number of Oedura species.


At 352 pages, this is a comprehensive title, but I found the index (which runs to 13 pages) a little cumbersome and clunky. Perhaps it could have been set in smaller type, or presented simply as a table of contents, with a separate index at the back.

Almost half the contents are taken up with discussions on management, housing, feeding and nutrition, breeding and common diseases and disorders. A great deal of detail has been included—for example there are four pages devoted to how to transport animals appropriately. There are some particularly valid points made regarding selection of specimens and the science of lighting also gets a very thorough treatment. I must say I was pleasantly surprised at the chapter on common diseases and disorders. I was expecting this section to be extensive given Danny’s veterinary background, however I was also expecting it to be somewhat superfluous given the difficulty in medicating or treating geckos because of their low body weight. In fact, this is a most interesting part of the book and conveys useful information to help keepers avoid health problems amongst their charges.


This is then followed by a number of chapters in which similar species (either phylogenetically, phenotypically or both) are grouped for the purpose of elaborating on their captive care. Each chapter follows a common format which includes description, some notes on natural distribution and habitat, status in captivity, housing (indoors and outdoors), compatibility, feeding, breeding, hybridisation and colour variants and longevity. Comments on housing are again aided substantially by the use of clearly marked photos of enclosures and breeding data— including interclutch interval, egg size and incubation period—has been tabled for easy reference. Incidentally, minimum enclosure size has been expressed in terms of a multiple of each animal’s SVL length. This is a novel concept which I believe has considerable merit, however to my mind, some sizes noted (although stressed as minimums) are a little small. For example, at an average SVL of 85mm, the suggested minimum floor dimensions of an enclosure for a thick-tailed gecko would be 255mm x 255mm. This would not lend itself to establishment of a temperature gradient, if desired, therefore introducing the possibility of overheating.


As expected from such an author, all recent changes to taxonomy—for example, with respect to the thick-tailed geckos, the genus Rhynchoedura and the ring-tailed geckos—have all been incorporated and through explanations provided. Overall, this impressive publication represents great value as a stand-alone reference for the novice. The level of detail and up-to-the-minute information is also sure to please experienced keepers.


Reviewed by John McGrath, December 2012


A Guide to Australian Geckos & Pygopods in Captivity, by Dr. Danny Brown BVSc (Hons) BSc (Hons)

Reptile Publications, 352pp, RRP $70 plus P & H



Recent Blog Posts