The Leaf-tailed gecko - Uroplatus phantasticus is not only one of nature's greatest plant mimics it is also one of the world's scariest looking creatures! Native only to the island of Madagascar, it is the smallest of 12 species of bizarre looking Leaf-tailed geckos and reaches an overall length of only 2 ½ to 6 inches - and that includes the tail! Its defining feature is that its entire body looks like a dead leaf! It naturally holds a twisted posture, and its body, veined skin, and tail look as though it has been nibbled by insects or have partially rotted by decay.

It is a nocturnal reptile which stalks its rainforest habitat at night feeding on various insects, and as such it possesses suitably large eyes. However, these huge colourful eyes, together with a frightening, bright red mouth has also earned it a rather sinister, alternative common name - the Satanic leaf-tailed Gecko!

The highly detailed and accurate camouflage that this species of gecko has evolved has made it somewhat of an expert at avoiding predators. Not only do they have the advantage of their incredible mimicry, they also have a number of beneficial 'anti-predatory' behaviours. They can flatten their body to reduce their shadow, they can open their jaws wide to show a frightening, bright red mouth, and they voluntarily shed their tail in order to confuse a predator which buys them precious moments in which to make their escape.

They also use their camouflage to prevent them from being detected by their prey. In their native environment, the will feed on a variety of appropriately sized insects including crickets and moths. Although they are quite happy to stalk their prey the Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko will also wait for their prey to come to them. Once in range the gecko will pounce.

Sadly its unique looks have made it a popular choice for collectors and is being captured and sold at an alarming rate for the international pet trade. While it is a CITES Appendix 2 protected animal, this means that the the Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko is not necessarily threatened with extinction, it accepts that it could be unless trade is closely controlled.

For related articles click onto the following articles:
The Leaf-Tailed Gecko
The Malayan Leaf Frog
The Wolverine Frog
What is the World's Largest Moth?

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