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Uroplatus is a genus of geckos, commonly referred to as leaf-tail geckos, leaf-tailed geckos, or flat-tailed geckos, which are endemic to Madagascar and its coastal islands, such as Nosy Be. They are nocturnal, insectivorous lizards found exclusively in primary and secondary forest.
Geckos of the genus Uroplatus are nocturnal and arboreal. They range in total length (including tail) from about 30 cm (12 in) for U. giganteus to 10 cm (3.9 in) for U. ebenaui. Larger species of Uroplatus are distinguished among geckos in having the largest number of marginal teeth among all living amniotes. Other rare apomorphic character states include multiple inscriptional ribs, restriction of autotomy planes, and finger-like diverticula of the lungs.
All Uroplatus species have highly cryptic colouration, which acts as camouflage, most being grayish-brown to black or greenish-brown with various markings resembling tree bark. There are two variations of this camouflage: leaf form, and bark form. The leaf form is present in only four described species, U. phantasticus, U. ebenaui, U. finiavana, and U. malama, which are also the smallest species. All other forms blend in well with tree bark upon which they rest during the day. Some of these tree bark forms have developed a flap of skin, running the length of the body, known as a "dermal flap", which they lay against the tree during the day, scattering shadows, and making their outline practically invisible. These geckos bear a resemblance to geckos of the genera Phyllurus and Saltuarius of Australia. This is an example of convergent evolution.
The skull of Uroplatus is strongly ossified, with an extremely high tooth count and incipient secondary palate.
Uroplatus geckos are exclusively nocturnal. The larger species spend most of the daylight hours hanging vertically on tree trunks, head down, resting, while the smaller leaf tailed geckos (U. phantasticus, U. ebenaui, U. finiavana and U. malama) spend more time in bushes and small trees imitating twigs and leaves. During the night, they will venture from their daytime resting spots, and go off in search of prey. They are all insectivores.
During their breeding season, female Uroplatus lay from 2-4 eggs depending on species and conditions.
Uroplatus are found in the herpetology and pet trade, but rarely. Most are threatened by deforestation and habitat loss. The difficulty in diagnosing between species has led to accidental exportation of both threatened and undescribed species.
Habitat destruction and deforestation in Madagascar is the primary threat to the future of Uroplatus geckos as well as collection for the pet trade. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) lists all of the Uroplatus species on their "Top ten most wanted species list" of animals threatened by illegal wildlife trade, because of it "being captured and sold at alarming rates for the international pet trade". It is a CITES Appendix 2 protected animal.
The following 14 species are recognized.
- Uroplatus alluaudi Mocquard, 1894 - northern leaf-tail gecko
- Uroplatus ebenaui (Boettger, 1879) - spearpoint leaf-tail gecko
- Uroplatus fimbriatus (Schneider, 1792) - common leaf-tail gecko
- Uroplatus finiavana Ratsoavina, Louis, Crottini, Randrianiaina, Glaw & Vences, 2011
- Uroplatus giganteus Glaw, Kosuch, Henkel, Sound & Böhme, 2006 - giant leaf-tail gecko
- Uroplatus guentheri Mocquard, 1908 - Günther's leaf-tail gecko
- Uroplatus henkeli Böhme & Ibisch, 1990 - frilled leaf-tail gecko
- Uroplatus lineatus (A.M.C. Duméril & Bibron, 1836) - lined leaf-tail gecko
- Uroplatus malahelo Nussbaum & Raxworthy, 1994
- Uroplatus malama Nussbaum & Raxworthy, 1995
- Uroplatus phantasticus (Boulenger, 1888) - satanic leaf-tail gecko
- Uroplatus pietschmanni Böhle & Schönecker, 2003 - cork-bark leaf-tail gecko
- Uroplatus sameiti Böhme & Ibisch, 1990
- Uroplatus sikorae Boettger, 1913 - mossy leaf-tail gecko
- ITIS (Integrated Taxonomic Information System). www.itis.gov.
- The Reptile Database. www.reptile-database.org.
- Greenbaum; Bauer; Jackman; Vences; Glaw. (2007). "A phylogeny of the enigmatic Madagascan geckos of the genus Uroplatus". Zootaxa (Magnolia) 1493: 41–51.
- Ratsoavina; Raminosoa; Louis; Raselimanana; Glaw; Vences. (2013). "An overview of Madagascar's leaf tailed geckos (genus Uroplatus): species boundaries, candidate species, and review of geographical distribution based on molecular data". Salamandra 49 (3): 115–148.
- "Inclusion of Uroplatus spp. in Appendix II" (pdf). Technical comments in support of amendments to CITES appendices submitted by Madagascar. CITES. 2004. Retrieved 2 November 2008.
- Duméril AMC. 1806. Zoologie analytique, ou méthode naturelle de classification des animaux, rendue plus facile a l'aide de tableux synoptiques. Paris: Allais. (Perronneau, printer). xxxii + 344 pp. (Uroplatus, new genus, p. 80).