Geckos are weird animals but at the same time, make loving and cute pets. Several unique gecko behaviors differentiate this lizard from its larger cousins, and one of these behaviors is eyeball licking. Find out why it licks its eyes and other crazy gecko behaviors from this guide.
Geckos lick their eyeballs
Considered the oddest behavior that anyone has seen in geckos is that they often lick their eyeballs. You might notice geckos standing very still with their tongues quickly darting out of their mouths and wiping their eyes. A gecko can lick its eyes with its mouth open or closed. The tongue is long, but a gecko does not use this to capture prey from a distance like a chameleon. It can use its tongue to lick and pick up food and of course, to wipe its eyes.
Because geckos have large eyes
Well, just like we wipe our eyes or scratch them when something is inside our eyes, the gecko uses its large, sticky tongue to remove dust or dirt in its eye. Geckos usually have large eyes, with some species having larger eyes in proportion with their heads. So what happens when you have large eyes? Dust and dirt can easily stick on the surface of the eye, and this is very irritating.
The gecko’s eyes can easily dry up too because of its size, and this is also irritating for a gecko. Thus, it uses its tongue to moisten the surface of its eyes and relieve dryness, which is similar to why we use eye drops or why we splash our eyes with water when its dry and itchy.
Because geckos don’t have eyelids
Some geckos don’t have any eyelids, and therefore, they don’t blink. They use their tongue to lick their eyeballs to keep them crystal clear, clean, and moist. And actually, the lizard is licking the transparent lining that covers the eyeball.
A gecko will win staring contest hands down because it does not have eyelids! But eyelids are very important to the eye. Human eyes have eyelids to protect the eye from too much light, dust, water, and irritants. The eyelids become heavy when we are sleepy and when we feel tired because tells the eyes that we need to rest and sleep. Geckos sleep with their eyes open and the only way to tell if it’s asleep is that they retreat to their favorite spot to rest.
Some geckos have highly-developed vertical pupils that close the eyes to tiny slits to block the damaging rays of the sun. But some don’t have this adaptation and thus rely only on their tongues to protect their eyes.
Some gecko species cannot blink
Gecko species that don’t blink come with fixed, non-moving eyelids. Examples of these species are the Tokay geckos, crested geckos, and house geckos. These geckos have a spectacle or a part known as the clear scale that covers the eye than an eyelid. These geckos are experts in using their tongues to clean their eyes.
As mentioned before, the eyelids cover the eyes to protect it from very bright lighting. Gecko’s eyes are more highly-specialized than a human’s eyes as it can trap more light and see more vividly. It may use its tongue to reduce the strain on its eyes and to help remove any particles on the eye that can obstruct its vision.
Because geckos can’t use their limbs
The gecko’s tongue is similar to a windshield wiper, and the spectacle is similar to the windshield. Licking the eyes will help keep the spectacles from being too dry. You use your hands to cover your eyes to protect it or to scratch the eyes when irritated. Geckos can’t do this because of their short limbs.
Their hands or feet may reach their eyes, but doing this leaves them vulnerable to prey even for just a few seconds, and thus, they simply use their tongue to wipe their eyes.
Because it’s hard to see with dirty eyes
Wild geckos are naturally found on the forest floor and on trees, while geckos that can be found in human habitats prefer to stay on ceilings and walls. All these areas are dusty and dirty, and this makes a gecko’s eyes dirty as well. The gecko’s tongue keeps its eyes clear and dirt-free so that the gecko can see better and avoid predators better too.
Because it has to see well to capture prey
As much as geckos are a prey, these can also be predators as it feeds on small insects. It needs a clear vision so it can capture prey quicker. Small gecko species rely not on just with their quick movement but their eyes to see better to move about in their natural habitat. Not being able to see better with dirty eyes can cause accidents and may even cost a lizard its life if it is not careful.
Because their tongues are different
A gecko’s tongue is indeed very different from ours and from other animals. It is extra sticky, thicker, and longer (but not as long as chameleon’s tongue), and therefore, it may function as a fifth limb or an extra arm. Lizards can also control their tongues better, and thus they use it to wipe their eyes as well as clean their heads, arms, and other areas of their bodies without moving or changing their positions.
Because they can
Geckos can stick to any surface because they can as much as they lick their eyeballs too. So if you spot a gecko licking its eyes, just let it be. It may just be cleaning its eyes so it can see you better.