How sticky toepads evolved in geckos and what that means for adhesive technologies
by PhysOrg staff
Geckos have independently evolved their trademark sticky feet as many as 11 times, and lost them nine times, according to research published June 27 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.
Geckos are known for sticky toes that allow them to climb up walls and even hang upside down on ceilings. A new study shows that geckos have gained and lost these unique adhesive structures multiple times over the course of their long evolutionary history in response to habitat changes.
“Scientists have long thought that adhesive toepads originated just once in geckos, twice at the most,” says University of Minnesota postdoctoral researcher Tony Gamble, a coauthor of the study. “To discover that geckos evolved sticky toepads again and again is amazing.”
Geckos, a type of lizard, are found in tropical and semitropical regions around the world. About 60 percent of the approximately 1,400 gecko species have adhesive toepads. Remaining species lack the pads and are unable to climb smooth surfaces. Geckos with these toepads are able to exploit vertical habitats on rocks and boulders that many other kinds of lizards can’t easily get to. This advantage gives them access to food in these environments, such as moths and spiders. Climbing also helps geckos avoid predators…
(read more: PhysOrg)
(images: Four gecko species along with their feet showing diversity of adhesive toepad types. top to bttm Ptyodactylus guttatus, Hemidactylus frenatus, Phelsuma laticauda, and Sphaerodactylus elegans)
More information: Gamble T, Greenbaum E, Jackman TR, Russell AP, Bauer AM (2012) Repeated Origin and Loss of Adhesive Toepads in Geckos. PLoS ONE 7(6): e39429.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039429
Journal reference: PLoS ONE
Provided by Villanova University