This absolutely amazing looking lizard is a male MOSSY LEAF-TAILED GECKO from the island of Madagascar, also known by its scientific name of Uroplatus sikorae. This one is named Treebeard after the character from the Lord of the Rings, as he both looks so much like tree bark and appears to have a beard (more about this below)!!
I absolutely love Treebeard's eyes, they are just HUGE and so beautiful!
The Madagascan geckos of the genus Uroplatus are well known for their amazing cryptic camouflage, with this individual being no exception. The two pictures below show Treebeard on a twig, with the first one being a top-down view and the second a side view!
Treebeard is even harder to spot in the picture below, as he is sitting on a piece of bark of similar colour to himself. As well as looking like tree bark, individuals of this species can sometimes closely resemble the mosses and lichens amongst which they would conceal themselves in the trees of the Madagascan rainforests from which the species originates.
These amazing camouflage skills are not just a result of their colouration and pattern. These geckos have extra flaps of skin running down the length of their bodies and on their head and legs known as dermal flaps or a dermal fringe. When they are at rest on a tree or branch these flaps if skin lie flat against the bark and massively reduce, or even completely eliminate, the shadow cast by their bodies making the outline of their bodies almost invisible! You can clearly see the dermal flaps on Treebeard's 'chin' area in these pictures:
In the picture below you can see the dermal flaps at work. With the head resting on a twig it is hard to make out the outline of his head despite the fact that the colour of Treebeard's skin and the colouration of the twig don't actually match. When they do this on bark of the same colouration as themselves it makes them almost impossible to spot!
The Madagascan leaf-tailed geckos are also sometimes known as flat-tailed geckos and it is clear to see why when you look at the shape of their tails!
The fabulous Treebeard represents the first Uroplatus gecko I ever owned but I definitely expect my collection to increase as he is one of my favourite geckos ever! Like all of my reptiles he was captive bred, in this case in Middlesbrough by a friend named Lauren. Lauren keeps many species of geckos including several other Uroplatus species, so I am sure that at some point in the future I will be adding to my collection!
Sadly in the wild all of the Uroplatus species are threatened by habitat destruction and deforestation on Madagascar, as well as by collection for the international pet trade. This is why captive breeding is so important and also why I would never accept wild-caught reptiles into my collection. It would be tragic for amazing species such as this to be lost forever due to the impact of man on their environment or populations, they are far too special for that!