What is the difference between Mediterranean house geckos and common house geckos?

What is the difference between Mediterranean house geckos and common house geckos?

If you’ve noticed small, quick lizards darting around your home, they’re likely house geckos. These tiny reptiles have adapted well to living in close proximity to humans. While harmless, house geckos can be a nuisance if they get into your food or make noise at night.

There are two main species of house geckos found around homes: Mediterranean house geckos and common house geckos. These reptiles look similar, leading to confusion about how to identify them.

But Mediterranean and common house geckos have key differences in their physical features, behavior, habitat, and distribution. Read on to learn how to tell these house lizard species apart!

Main Differences Between Mediterranean and Common House Geckos

Appearance and Size

Appearance and Size
Appearance and Size

Mediterranean house geckos are smaller, averaging 1.5-2 inches in length. They have large eyes and a slender build. Their bodies are light tan to pale gray. Dark spots may be present but are faint. The underside is white or light yellow. They have short, thin toes without webbing or prominent pads.

Common house geckos are slightly bigger at 2-4 inches long. Their coloring can be gray, brown or rusty tan. Unlike Mediterranean geckos, common house geckos have more distinct spotting, banding, or striping along their backs. The toes are thicker with expanded tips. The ventral surface ranges from white to yellowish.

Activity Patterns and Behavior

Activity Patterns and Behavior
Activity Patterns and Behavior

According to sources, Mediterranean house geckos are exclusively nocturnal and well-adapted to living alongside humans undetected. During the day, they stay hidden in cracks, crevices, or behind objects. At night, their large eyes help them locate prey while avoiding detection. They are very shy and will scurry away into hiding if disturbed.

Common house geckos are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. They tend to be more bold and tolerant of humans than Mediterranean house geckos. Common house geckos frequently perch on vertical surfaces like walls or windows, often near lights to catch insects. Their loud vocalizations can be disruptive at night.

Native Habitat and Range

Native Habitat and Range
Native Habitat and Range

As their name suggests, Mediterranean house geckos originate from the Mediterranean region, including Southern Europe, Northern Africa, and parts of southwestern Asia. They are an introduced species in many subtropical and tropical regions of the world, including Florida and other Gulf Coast states.

Common house geckos are native to South and Southeast Asia. They have also established introduced populations in various world regions with warm climates. In the United States, they are found in Florida, Texas, California, and Hawaii.

Climate and Habitat Preferences

Mediterranean house geckos thrive in warm, relatively dry climates. They are well-suited to Mediterranean ecosystems and urban areas in subtropical or tropical climates. They commonly live on manmade structures like houses, sheds, and garages.

Common house geckos prefer warm, humid tropical and sub-tropical habitats. They live in suburban and urban areas in these climates. Common house geckos occupy homes as well as natural areas like forests and rocky outcroppings. They do best in areas with annual average temperatures above 64° F.


Both types of house geckos lay eggs, usually two clutches per year. The eggs are glued to a protected surface, often on manmade structures. Mediterranean house geckos lay 1-2 hard-shelled eggs at a time, while common house geckos may lay up to eight rubbery eggs in a clutch. The hatchlings emerge 3-4 months later for Mediterranean geckos and 1-2 months later for common house geckos.

Why People Confuse These Species

Mediterranean and common house geckos occupy similar ecological niches, living on and around human homes. They both feed on insects attracted to outdoor lights. These geckos fill the role of pest control by preying on roaches, moths, mosquitoes, and more.

Their physical size and appearance is somewhat comparable. They are small, light-colored lizards with bulging eyes, giving them a frog-like look. Without close inspection, the differences in proportions, patterning, toes, and other features are subtle.

In areas where both species have been introduced, like Florida and Texas, Mediterranean and common house geckos often overlap in distribution. This makes identification more challenging since both types may be present.

For casual observers not well-versed in reptile identification, it’s easy to presume any house gecko belongs to the same species. Only herpetology experts are likely to reliably distinguish between Mediterranean and common house geckos at a glance.

Expert Opinions on Correct Identification

Herpetologists emphasize looking at the gecko’s toepads to discern between Mediterranean and common house geckos. Dr. Coleman Sheehy, Florida Museum of Natural History, states “the toe pads are the best identifying characteristic.” Mediterranean house geckos have small pads on elongate, thin toes. Common house geckos have expanded toe tips.

UC Berkeley herpetologist Dr. David Wake points out “coloration and markings are not always reliable.” Instead, he advises focusing on the thick vs thin toes and subtle differences in the gecko’s proportions and head shape. The eyes of Mediterranean house geckos also appear proportionally larger.

Noted reptile rescuer Luke Smith recommends getting photos of the gecko’s underside and head from multiple angles. He says house geckos are often identified incorrectly from photos because the key features aren’t visible. Capturing defining characteristics like the toepads requires taking clear, close-up pictures from below and above.

According to wildlife biologist Leah Walters, “Geographic location can provide helpful clues but shouldn’t be the only factor.” She notes that assumptions based on range maps alone may be misleading as species distributions shift over time. Definitive ID should rely on examining physical features.

Verdict: Look at Toes, Size, and Head Shape

When differentiating between Mediterranean and common house geckos, experts agree that toe pads, proportions, and head characteristics are the most reliable identification markers. Subtle variations in patterning and coloration should be secondary visual cues. Photos should capture diagnostic features from multiple angles for accurate ID. While geographic range provides helpful context, physical traits and structural details are required for positive species identification. By carefully inspecting these key distinguishing attributes, Mediterranean and common house geckos can be confidently told apart.

About Dean Eby

An avid outdoorsman, Dean spends much of his time adventuring through the diverse terrain of the southwest United States with his closest companion, his dog, Gohan. He gains experience on a full-time journey of exploration. For Dean, few passions lie closer to his heart than learning. An apt researcher and reader, he loves to investigate interesting topics such as history, economics, relationships, pets, politics, and more.

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