Thursday, September 30, 2010

Natural History Museum discovers Geckos in Chatsworth


Natural History Museum’s “Lost Lizards of L.A.” Project

Makes First Discovery


Non-Native Mediterranean House Gecko is First Documented in County,

Found by Amateur Father and Son Herpetology Collection Team



Los Angeles -- The Natural History Museum’s Lost Lizard of Los Angeles (LLOLA) survey, one the Museum’s several community science projects, has made its first notable discovery: a population of non-native Mediterranean House Geckos (Hemidactylus turcicus) in the Chatsworth region. It and other LLOLA findings will be on view during the second annual Reptile and Amphibian Appreciation Day on Sunday, Oct. 3, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


When the LLOLA survey launched this spring, amateur herpetologists Will Bernstein and son Reese attended the Museum’s lizard hunt that was held in both Exposition and Hancock parks (the parks surrounding the NHM and the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, respectively). Back home in the Valley, the Bernsteins continued to look for lizards and submit their results to the LLOLA survey online.


Will and Reese Bernstein’s Mediterranean House Gecko.




One of their submissions was initially believed to be a   Western Banded Gecko. But help from Dr. Robert Espinoza, a

herpetologist from Cal State Northridge and consultant for LLOLA, recently determined the Bernsteins’ find was actually a Mediterranean House Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus), not a Western Banded Gecko (Coleonyx variegatus).


Although the two species are superficially similar in color pattern, the local banded geckos (1) lack toe pads, (2) have eyelids, and (3) don't have bumpy warts (tubercles). As their name implies, Mediterranean House Geckos are not native to the area. But they have been widely introduced throughout the U.S. (including Hawaii), particularly in the southeast.


Espinoza checked through local records. There are 23 specimens/records of Hemidactylus turcicus in California held in U.S. museum collections: 22 from the Natural History Museum, and one from the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, UC Berkeley. All are from Riverside or San Diego County. The Bernsteins’ finding was definitely a new County record for L.A.


Although introduced species can harm native flora and fauna, Espinoza says the Mediterranean House Gecko may not be such a threat. “There’s no chance of affecting local lizards,” Espinoza said. “No other lizards, or vertebrates for that matter, occupy the porch-light niche in Southern California. It should be a fairly innocuous introduction.”


With an increasing interest in urban biodiversity, the Museum has started looking at all types of wildlife in our highly modified industrial, suburban, and urban habitats. One thing that quickly struck its scientists was that in the Museum’s own backyard, Exposition Park, nobody had documented any lizards since 1988. This seemed strange, as lizards are common in other parts of Los Angeles, and it led to the question, "Why are there no lizards here?" 


LLOLA’s aim is twofold: to confirm the presence or absence of lizards in Exposition Park (after all, nobody has looked extensively for them!) and find out where lizards occur in the Los Angeles Basin, and start to discover how they can survive there.


Check out LLOLA and other community science projects at:


Natural History Museum Hours and Admission:

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is located at 900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles.  Open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tickets are $9 for adults, $6.50 for children. There is parking in the lot just west of the Museum (the lot is not owned or regulated by the Museum; its prices vary from $8-10). For more information, visit the Museum’s website at or call (213) 763-DINO.



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Lauren Clark

Marketing & Communications

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90007


tel. 213.763.3580

fax. 213.743.4843



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