House Geckos Can Walk On Water, Researchers Show In Video

December 26, 2018

University of California, Berkeley researchers in Singapore have recorded on video Asian house geckos (Hemidactylus platyurus) running across bodies of water at about the same speed that they run across land. 

The researchers observed the gecko running across water at the Central Catchment area in Singapore, leaping from their perches and running across the water to get to a submerged tree. The lizards weren’t swimming, but were using all four legs in a slapping motion, what the researchers called a quadrupedal trotting gait, to get across the water.

Asian house gecko

Jasmine A. Nirody, Judy Jinn, Thomas Libby, Timothy J. Lee, Ardian Jusufi, David L. Hu, Robert J. Full

Kinematics of water running in the Gecko Hemidactylus platyurus.

Lab video then shows the gecko initially submerged until it gets up to speed, which then shows its head and upper portion of its back completely out of water as its legs propel the reptile forward. The researchers say air cavities are created by the limbs in a forward motion “as they push through the water.” The posterior trunk and tail help to generate thrust for forward propulsion. 

American Geckos

“In contrast to bipedal basilisk lizards, geckos used a stereotypic trotting gait with all four limbs, creating air cavities during slapping to raise their head and anterior trunk above water,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “A major difference between our observations and those described in basilisks is that geckos, with their shorter legs and inability to adopt an erect posture, are confined to quadrupedal running, with the animals’ hind end trailing beneath the surface of the water.”

The complete paper, Geckos Race Across the Water’s Surface Using Multiple Mechanisms can be read on the Current Biology website.  

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