Satanic Leaf-tailed gecko - body curled, Ranomafana, Madagascar
Here comes a jewel. Madagascar is well known for lemurs, chameleons, and baobabs.
Lesser known by the general public may be the incredible Uroplatus genus of geckos. This genus consists of 14 insane geckos that are true masters of disguise. I have no particular favorite to pick but this Satanic leaf-tailed gecko ranks highly and I had it at the very top of my wishlist of things to see in Ranomafana.
Thanks to our excellent spotter, we found two in a row. The Satanic leaf-tailed gecko is the smallest of Uroplatus geckos. Its entire body is shaped, curled and textured like a dry leaf. By day it will position itself in a low tree amidst real dry leafs, making it impossible to detect, unless you're lucky or an expert.
At night it becomes active and rapidly navigates trees for small prey. If it senses danger, it can flatten itself against the trunk into such extend that there's no shadow, no profile for the predator to go by. When danger is more direct, it opens its mouth widely to reveal a large bright red area. Or, it sheds it tail as a distraction.
It's also called the Fantastic Leaf-tailed Gecko, after the latin word "phantasticus", meaning "imaginary". A word used by the zoologist to first describe this species. It has such a unique appearance that it baffles the mind, as if it is only imagined.
I'll be generous in sharing lots of shots, these combine the photos of two individuals found shortly after each other.
''Uroplatus phantasticus'', the Satanic Leaf Tailed Gecko, is a species of gecko endemic to the island of Madagascar. First described in 1888 by George Albert Boulenger, ''U. phantasticus'' is the smallest in body of the ''Uroplatus'' geckos, though there is an ongoing debate as to whether one of its cousins, ''U. ebenaui'', is smaller because of its shorter tail. It may also be known as the eyelash leaf tailed gecko or the fantastic leaf tailed gecko.