New Lizard Species Discovered in Torrance

LITTLE LIZARD -- Dr. Greg Pauly of the NHM examines the Indo Pacific house gecko recently found in Torrance. (PHOTO: Martha Benedict)
LITTLE LIZARD — Dr. Greg Pauly of the NHM examines the Indo-Pacific house gecko recently found in Torrance. (PHOTO: Martha Benedict)

An established species of reptiles not typically found in Southern California has recently been discovered in a residential backyard  in Torrance.

Commonly known as the Indo-Pacific house gecko, these small lizards are usually found in India, the Philippines, Southeast Asia, Australia and throughout Polynesia.

The Torrance homeowner was checking out his property when he discovered the young adult hiding between a downspout and an adjacent fence. He snapped photos and sent them to the Natural History Museum’s Lost Lizard Project that documents lizard finds throughout the LA area.

Dr. Greg Pauly, curator of herpetology, checked out the submission and, given the unusual nature of the lizard, went to Torrance to retrieve the critter…and to search for others.

“This particular breed of lizard is asexual, they are all females,” he said at a recent open house for media at the museum when he showed off the lizard. “It just takes one to have an introduced species in the area.”

Currently, the lizards have established themselves in Florida, Texas, Georgia and Hawaii.

Pauly was scientifically thrilled to have found the lizard and spent a good part of his visit, “looking for gecko poop” – and discovered evidence of 3-5 geckos in the area. He captured one gecko (not the one originally photographed) and brought it back to the museum. Pauly plans on distributing a flyer to the neighborhood to see if anyone has seen these lizards in their backyards as well. “Over the next few months, I will work to find out more about how widespread this gecko is,” he says.

Pauly estimates that the population has been in the area for at least two years; they find their way here often as stow-away or escaped pets. “This is the first record of an established population in California,” he says adding that an occassional gecko has been found in the past. “What we have are multiple individuals, including juveniles previously observed.”

Adults are 4-5 inches long with dark gray or brown with light markings in daylight. At night, when you are more likely to find them as they are nocturnal, they have a pale translucent color. Their bellies are orange or lemony yellow and their heads have a long narrow “foxlike” snout. They have been known to make squeaking or barking noises when defending their ‘hood.

Think you found one? Contact the Lost Lizard Project with photos.