English name: Spiny-tailed House Gecko (aka “Common House Gecko” or “Asian House Gecko”)
Scientific name: Hemidactylus frenatus
Thai name: Ching-chok Hang Nam
Description: To 14 cm long. Snout to base of tail is up to 6.7 cm. A gecko of average length and girth. Body is usually grey to brown, sometimes with dark markings. At night they can appear a very pale, almost white color. The head has a light line that originates at the nose and passes through the eye, most prominent in darker individuals. Tail has rings of small spines (longest on the sides) which give it its common name. Individuals that have lost and regrown their tails may have most or all of the spines missing. Toes have the characteristic lamellae of house geckos on the underside. Underbelly is cream.
Similar Species: Siamese Leaf-toed Gecko has tubercles on the sides, and longer, more slender toes that lack the lamellae on the undersides.
Sri Lankan House Gecko has more regular dark markings on back.
Flat-tailed House Gecko has flatter tail with no spines and often has a yellowish underside.
Stump-toed Gecko lacks the spines on its tail and has softer skin and broader toes.
Habitat: Naturally found in a wide range of habitats from savanna to rainforest, but now is primarily known by its association with humans. Is common around hotels, houses, in empty lots, rest stops, and resorts. Can be found in hollow trees and bark and under boards and other cover during the day, and is active on trees and walls at night. At night they can most easily be found near artificial lighting, where they hunt the insects attracted to the lights.
Contribution to the ecosystem: Helps control insect and spider populations. Provides food for snakes and Tokay Geckos.
Danger to humans: Poses no danger to humans at all.
Conservation status and threats: Is common and widespread. No known conservation threats. Its affinity to human habitations has caused it to be introduced to many sites across the world.
Interesting facts: Geckos, like most species of lizards, have the ability to lose their tail when threatened. In some species the tail does not need to be bit or pulled off, but will actually just drop off with minor provocation. Over time the tail will grow back, often with different texture and markings than the original tail. Causing a lizard to lose its tail puts it at a disadvantage because it takes energy to regrow the new tail, and it lacks that defense mechanism against predators until the tail is regrown. Avoid grabbing geckos, skinks, and other lizard species with sensitive tails to help ensure that their chances for survival stay as high as possible.
The Spiny-tailed House Gecko is one of the most familiar gecko species across the world. It is native to southeast Asia, but will often hide in luggage, shipping containers, and in lumber and botanical shipments, causing it to end up across the world. Outside of Southeast Asia I have found the geckos in India, Singapore, the Philippines, Hawaii, Mexico, and Belize, and they are also known from South America, the southeastern United States, Africa, New Guinea and Australia. As long as they stick close to human habitations these introductions are not an issue, but if they move into native environments then there are worries that the geckos could disrupt insect populations as well as outcompete native lizard species.
IUCN Red List: Hemidactylus frenatus
Wikipedia: Common House Gecko
Hong Kong University: Hemidactylus frenatus
Ecology Asia: Spiny-tailed Gecko
Thailand Office of Environmental Planning and Policy: A Checklist of Amphibians and Reptiles in Thailand
A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia
Hong Kong Amphibians and Reptiles (2nd Edition)