Episode CC XV – 215: Aruban cool lizard

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Every week, Etnia Nativa writes a new episode concerning culture and heritage, focusing on various aspects of native knowledge, transcendental wisdom, and the importance of upholding our true identity. The goal is to educate readers and encourage them to embrace a genuine island state of consciousness.

In this segment, Etnia Nativa shares about the Turnip-tailed gecko, locally known as Pega Pega (Thecadactylus rapicauda), which is mostly nocturnal and commonly found in local houses. They are famous for their ability to stick to vertical surfaces; their name derives from the suction pads on their feet that allow them to grip or stick (pega means “to stick” in Papiamento); however, it is also said that it has to do with the repeating crisping sound they make.

The local Pega Pega is immediately recognizable by its large size, with a body length of up to 12 cm, and its large, swollen tail, approximately the same length or slightly shorter than its body; females are larger and more robust than males. It has short, robust legs with flattened toes and extensive basal webbing.

The undersides of its toes are covered in lamellae, which are used as friction pads to cling to smooth vertical surfaces. Some can even walk around completely upside down. Its toes are covered with ridges, which are peppered with millions of microscopic bristle-like structures called setae that attach and detach when the animal wills them to, and they never get gunked up.

They are variable in coloration, from a mottled dark gray to orange-brown, and are capable of changing color depending on their mood and surroundings. Mottled and banded markings aid in camouflage against tree bark. They are harmless and fragile; you can hold one in your hands as long as you are VERY gentle.

Never put pressure on its tail because it will surely drop as a measure to try to distract the predator, and they are different from other lizards because they’re long-lived, talkative, lack eyelids, and their small scales are situated next to each other like cobblestones rather than overlapping as is the case in most other lizards. Their reproductive season is during the rainy season. After mating, a female lays 1 or (rarely) 2 eggs, which she buries in a slightly moist substrate, a garden plant container, or a tree trunk. The young hatch 13 days later.


This sticking `lizard“ has full-color vision and can see a large spectrum of colors even in very dim light. But most geckos don’t have eyelids, so their precious eyeballs are covered with little protective scales that need to be wiped off occasionally. For this reason, it is really useful and valuable because of its long tongue. Pega Pega, instead of blinking, sticks out his long pink tongue and cleans off its eyeballs, one at a time.

They have sophisticated vocal communication systems, similar to those of mammals and birds. At night, they vocalize by giving a series of 15–25 chirps and clacks, used for territory establishment and defense or to lure potential interlopers away when they get too close. Their vocalization is extremely flexible: they can bark, click, squeak, and chirp in order to attract mates. In New Caledonia lives the largest gecko in the world (Rhacodactylus leachianus), and because of its shrill growl, the natives of the place call it “the devil in the trees”.

Turnip-tailed Geckos are insectivorous and feed on cockroaches, grasshoppers, beetles, flies, mosquitoes, and spiders. They spend their days concealed in dark tree grooves and cavities, in narrow crevices in the walls, or behind paintings, which provide the perfect shelter for them. Most geckos have thin skin covered in tiny, granular scales and tend to rely on camouflage and the cover of the night to hide from predators. Their skin is self-cleaning and antibacterial and repels water that rises and rolls off, carrying dirt and bacteria away. Their ability to shed water helps keep them clean in the wild. To date, there are 44 different types of gecko species with different characteristics and types. Pega pega is a gecko endemic to our island, but in time, some 4–5 intrusive gecko species have been observed, some of which do not cease to amaze us with the racket they make, especially during the hours of the night.

If you have a keen interest in exploring Aruba’s heritage, Etnia Nativa`s experience is highly recommended. The owner’s firsthand explanations and insights set Etnia Nativa apart of the rest. A personal touch which adds depth and authenticity to the experience, allowing visitors to forge a meaningful connection with the island’s history, engaging valuable insights and a more profound understanding of Aruba’s cultural traditions.

Appointments required ensuring a personalized and immersive experience. etnianativa03@gmail.com or WhatsApp (messages only) at +297 592 2702.