A small mystery solved

looks like bubble-wrap
Bubble-wrap?
from further away it looks less like bubble-wrap
Not bubble-wrap. Snake-skin?
almost-complete gecko-skin
Not snake-skin, but close: gecko-skin

We know that snakes shed their skin and we know that lizards, like snakes, are reptiles. It follows logically enough that lizards, even including little soft geckos, shed their skins but I must admit that the thought had never crossed my mind until I found this shed skin under a piece of loose bark on a fallen tree trunk.

It is the skin of a gecko about the size of our house geckos. Given that I found it in a rural area, well away from any house, it probably came from the native house gecko or Dtella. The fact that I can see no sign of tail-spines supports that guess, but it’s hard to be sure – the whole skin is so soft, light and delicate that it floats to ground like a feather when dropped, and any spines wouldn’t stand out as they do on the animal. My first photo, of course, is an extreme close-up: the whole skin is only about 10cm long.

We always have lots of geckos around the house so I wondered why I had never seen a shed skin before. It turns out that most lizards, including geckos, normally shed their skin in patches rather than in one piece so my near-complete skin is a bit unusual. And it wouldn’t normally last long, either: a friendly herpetologist told me that the lizard often eats its skin as it lifts off. If not, I guess something else soon will – why waste good protein?

More: Shedding in other groups of reptiles at MadSci Network