Wednesday 23 September, 2020

Heard a strange noise in your home? It might be this creature

Photo via iStock.

Photo via iStock.

As people spend more time at home, a strange ‘ka-ka-ka-ka’ sound may be heard at random hours of the day and night.

What could it be?

Rest assured, it’s not someone knocking on your window, it’s merely a common house gecko, known locally as a woodslave. 

(Video courtesy Domestic Discovery)

According to animaldiversity.org, the tropical house gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia) is originally from south-central Africa and spread to the Caribbean during the Atlantic slave trade when the creatures hid on slave ships.

Tropical house geckos have a signature sound which may sound eerie, especially as they occupy human homes.

Tropical house geckos are also found in Cuba, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and the Dutch Windward Islands.

Their habitats include sandy areas, scrubby areas near beaches, on tree trunks, and on the outside walls of houses – as well as inside them, as they are commonly found in urban and suburban areas.

But why do they make those sounds?

Tropical house gecko males attract female mates by using chirping signals and pheromones. The females, if interested in the calls, will allow the male to mate with them.

Males will also chirp when fighting for territory with other males.

The breeding season for tropical house geckoes is from August to December, which may explain why their presence might be more noticeable during this time.

They have a fixed size of two offspring per clutch. Larger females are capable of producing eggs with larger volume, but not more than two eggs will be produced.

Tropical house geckos' expected lifespan in both the wild and captivity is three to five years.

Insect control

Although their noise is a nuisance, they do help control the insect population.

They are nocturnal and hunt at night, consuming a wide range of insects – mainly cockroaches.

They do have certain predators such as snakes, birds and some spiders.

Gravity-defying geckos

They also have a feature unique to geckos which allows them to cling to walls and ceilings - their sticky feet are actually due to hundreds of tiny hairs, called setae, which then spilt further into even tinier hairs called spatulae. 

The hairs tufts of tiny hairs get so close to contours in walls and ceilings the van der Waals force kicks in.

This type of physical bond happens when electrons from the gecko hair molecules and electrons from the wall molecules interact with each other and create an electromagnetic attraction.

In fact, gecko toes are well-studied and their sticky properties have inspired some incredible technology, such as stitch-free ways to seal wounds and sticky handheld paddles that may help soldiers scale walls someday.

Have you heard these creatures in your house? 

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