Afrogecko plumicauda makes for an interesting story.
Some 40 years ago, Wulfe Haacke discovered this bizarre gecko while surveying the herps of southern Angola. The gecko was discovered after a large granitic sheet was dislodged from a boulder, and as Wulfe has told me “a sheet measuring about 3 foot x 4 foot and 3 inches thick dislodged and upon falling I noticed a swarm of black waving tails. I threw my arms, chest, face and everything else available to me against the rock face and noticed several black curling and waving tails projecting from underneath my arms and hands. I called for my field assistants to help collect them and upon containerizing them realized that I was not aware of any other Gekkonid on earth that shared the physical characteristics and behavior of this species”.
The animals were deposited into the Pretoria museum in South Africa, where they remained f or nearly almost 40 years. The collective physical properties of this gecko seemed to not only justify being a new species, but rather a completely new genus, making systematic evaluation of them nearly impossible when considering the need of comparative material from areas further north (not capable of being travelled then, or even now!).
The entire body of the gecko is compressed, dosro-ventrally, along with the tail. Afrogecko plumicauda translates from Latin as the “Feather-tailed African gecko”. In life, once the gecko is uncovered the tail is waved vertically (like a scorpion) and laterally in a very sproradic and almost convulsionary manner. The suet black coloration of the tail and it’s bizarre movement clearly serve as an optical cue for communication and, more importantly, as an attractant to lure predators towards the replaceable tail and not the gecko itself. Unlike nearly all other geckos that possess spiny tails, the regenerated tail of A. plumicauda is also adorned with the same scalation, spines and coloration as the original tail.
I know Wulfe very well who is now into his mid-late 70’s and have stayed with him multiple times while being in South Africa myself. Wulfe has travelled all over southern Africa stamping out a very productive 50+ year career as a herpetologist and considers this species to be the “feather [tail] in his cap”. I’ve spent nearly a year in the field all over southern Africa myself with many new and important finds of my own, and can justifiably say that I cannot blame him for his pride and sentimental value of discovering this hidden gem!
Check out Jon's Video on these wonderful animals= Afrogecko plumicauda Video !