540561296

540561296

Photo by: David A. Northcott

David A. Northcott

How Spider Geckos Survive in the World’s Hottest Desert

Missone's spider geckos live in earth’s hottest landscape– Iran’s Lut Desert. What is the key to their survival?

February 15, 2022

The surface temperatures of the Lut Desert in Iran skyrocket to over 150 degrees Fahrenheit more often than anywhere else on earth. Considered mostly barren, this desert’s harsh environment makes it a difficult home for any life to thrive.

Enter the spider gecko. These small nocturnal lizards can withstand harsh summer temperatures and extreme winter night lows. These tiny reptiles have long slender legs and a tail to help them climb in their rocky habitats.

1356732968

1356732968

Lut Desert, Iran

Photo by: Aref Barahuie / EyeEm

Aref Barahuie / EyeEm

Lut Desert, Iran

To find out how Persian spider geckos, or Rhinogecko misonnei, are able to survive on earth’s hottest landscape, scientists at the State Museum of Natural History in Germany analyzed the stomach contents of six geckos.

Using DNA metabarcoding, the scientists studied the food in the gecko’s digestive system. They found DNA from 94 species. 81% of the species were from outside the Lut Desert– mostly moths, wasps, and flies that pass through the desert from more temperate regions.

462603091

462603091

Close up of clinging gecko feet.

Photo by: piola666

piola666

Close up of clinging gecko feet.

“The movement of insects from outside the immediate area subsidizes the geckos and helps them to persist in this extreme desert environment,” says Hossein Raijei who helmed the study.

The other 19% were comprised of anthropods, arachnids, and moths native to the desert. Underscoring the importance of intertwined food webs for animals surviving in hostile habitats. Raijei says the unexpected diversity highlights that there’s more living in this desert than meets the eye.

Next Up

Lemurs Can Sing with Rhythm

Researchers found the first nonhuman animal that can keep a beat.

Tuskless Elephants Evolved to Escape Poachers

Unnatural selection: After being targeted by ivory poachers in Mozambique, elephants are being born without tusks at an increasing rate.

The ‘Immortal’ Plant Tells Its Tale

A plant with two leaves has the power to live up to 1,000 years in a rowdy desert...is there really such a thing?

Using DNA to Reunite an Orphaned Elephant with her Mother

After villagers found a tiny elephant wandering alone, scientists began the search for her mother using DNA matching technology.

Giraffes Have Daycares, Lunch Buddies, and Yearslong Relationships

Scientists discovered that giraffes are actually a highly complex social species, on par with elephants and chimpanzees.

There’s a Black Rhino Baby Boom in Zimbabwe

Finally, a success story for the critically endangered animal.

The Untold Journey of the African House Gecko's Treck across the Atlantic Ocean

Reptile roadtrip? How the African house gecko traveled from Africa across to the Americas.

Bat Pups Babble like Babies

Baby greater sac-winged bats show similarities to human babies in the way they string together syllabus before they can learn to “talk.”

What Fat Bears and Astronauts Have in Common

The mysteries around hibernating bears have intrigued curious children and researchers alike for ages. What is hibernation, what causes it and aren’t bears too big to truly hibernate? And probably most interestingly - could humans do this someday?

Fishermen and Scientist Develop Rope-less Gear to Save Whales

Fishermen are testing alternative rope-less gear in order to help an effort to save the critically endangered whale species.