Ecology of Wahlberg's velvet gecko, Homopholis wahlbergii, in southern Africa

Martin J. Whiting*, Leeann T. Reaney, J. Scott Keogh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


We examined 170 museum specimens of the southern African gekkonid lizard Homopholis wahlbergii, to quantify sexual dimorphism, male and female reproductive cycles and diet. The largest male and female we recorded were 116 and 119 mm snout-vent length (SVL) respectively. We compared SVL, tail length, head length, head width and eye diameter and found no evidence of sexual dimorphism in any of these characters. The smallest female with thickened muscular oviducts and follicles, indicating sexual maturity, was 59 mm SVL, but the smallest female we found with fully developed eggs was 85 mm SVL. Virtually all females larger than 59 mm appeared to be in some stage of reproduction, suggesting that females reproduce every year once they reach sexual maturity. Egg size ranged from 17-19 mm long. Egg size was not correlated with maternal SVL. We found adult females with ready-to-lay eggs during the warmer months of the year, but not during winter and spring. The smallest sexually mature male was 72 mm SVL. Virtually all males larger than this size displayed at least semi-turgid testes and most adult male testes were at least semi-turgid for much of the year. The only significant decrease in testicular activity was in mid-winter (June-August), thus, spermatogenesis is closely tied to female follicular development and ovulation. Velvet geckos are largely insectivorous (92%) and feed on a broad spectrum of prey. Their diet was dominated both numerically (34%) and volumetrically (22%) by beetles. Lepidoptera were the next most important prey category, suggesting that they exploit both terrestrial and flying invertebrates. They are unusual among lizards because they feed on millipedes. Males and females had very similar diets which may he explained by their lack of sexual dimorphism, although females tended to eat a greater volume of prey. Interestingly, less than half (37%) of the lizards examined contained prey items, suggesting that most individuals were not in positive energy balance. We also found evidence of prey size selection as a function of gape size, such that larger geckos took advantage of larger prey items.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-44
Number of pages7
JournalAfrican Zoology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2007
Externally publishedYes


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