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Phelsuma klemmeri


Common Name: Yellow-headed (neon) day gecko.
Distribution: Northwest-Madagascar (Sambirano-area).
Taxon Description: Seipp, 1990.

The author of this article© is P. Vermeul, a member of Lacerta.
This text was also published in Lacerta in the Dutch language©.

Phelsuma klemmeri is just in 1990 described by Robert Seipp based on 14 specimens whom he brought with him out of Madagascar for research at the Senckenberg Instituut (Germany). The species is named after the formal director of that institute: Konrad Klemmer (Seipp, 1990). In the Dutch-language terrarium literature are since some short articles appeared about this species (Van Heygen, 1992, 1993 and Vermeul, 1994).
P. klemmeri may be qua building and colour pattern standing alone in the genus Phelsuma.The most relative seeming day geckos are Phelsuma barbouri and Phelsuma pronki. Due to the many differences at these species such as the very flattened body and the behaviour,we can put that we have to deal with a completely isolated species.

Distribution and Habitat
Phelsuma klemmeri lives in the bamboo woods of the Sambirano-area in Northwest-Madagascar. Throughout the hole year it is in this area warm and moist (Glaw & Vences, 1992). The species lives with among others Phelsuma seippi. The exact finding place is not released. One did this to protect the species against irresponsible collecting.

Phelsuma klemmeri belongs with his length of 85-90 mm to the smaller species. A big difference with other Phelsuma is his very flatten build. Further stick their eyes out high above the ended in a point head. The head and neck area are greenish yellow and creates a big contrast with the mainly turquoise coloured abdomen. The middle part of the back is gold-brown spotted. From the neck up to the root of the tail are two parallel, fierce turquoise-blue stripes. Underneath those stripes is a black stripe situated, from the eyes up to the hind-legs. This black stripe is interrupted at height of the ear by the yellow of the head. In front and behind the ear are found one or more turquoise little scales. The tail is complete turquoise. The front and hind-legs are turquoise and brownie marbled and the underside is white and shining smooth.
Yellow is the throat and is edged by a dark-blue V-shaped line. The males are yellowish till orange coloured round the femoral pores at the thighs. At a bit older males the femoral pores can develop up to 1-1.5 mm. The basis of the tail of the males is not thicker than those of the females.

Terraria and care
The terraria for the day gecko does not have to be big. With proportions of 50x30x30 cm (hxbxd) for a pair is there enough space. I have fit them per pair in tanks of 60x20x30 cm (hxbxd). The tanks are enlightened by fluorescent lamps (Philips®, colour 83) supplied with little halogen spots of 20 Watt. From the out sight is no light coming in the terraria space. That is why I have chosen to switch on the lighting from 13.00 hours till 03.30 hours (European time). The advantage from it is that it gives an economized energy account (night-tariff) and that one can take care of your animals until the late evening.
The terraria is planted with snake plants (Sansevieria) and further fitted up with pieces of bamboo. The ground cover exists out of a thick layer of shells-dust. The advantages from it are that it reflects the light, detains moisture very well but release's it again also, is cheap and contains calcium.
There will be sprinkled every day. The relative humidity stays there for between 70­90%. Important is the fact the terraria should be ventilated besides also good. Temperature swings between 22­37°C.

Bigger insects than one centimetre will be refused. Little crickets, fruit flies vestigal­ winged (Drosophila melanogaster), wax moths and meadow-plankton are eager devoured. I dust the insects before the feed with calcium (Gistocal® or Osspulvit®). Besides insects they get once a week a poultice of Roosvicee® (a sweet liquid), fruit, calcium and vitamins. I do not give vitamins in sprinkle-water, because this leaves a greasy layer behind at the terraria-interior. Through that the attachments of the toe pads become unusable as follows the animals do not get a sufficient grip and there for glides downwards.

Phelsuma klemmeri is a very active animal. He is not bashful at all and very tolerant towards congeners and other day geckos. At lack of space I grow up the juveniles of P. klemmeri but also those of other day geckos with the adults of P. klemmeri. It is one of the fewer species who also can be kept in groups.
As if two animals of different sex approach each other both begin to shake their head. Further they walk across each other, so they scour their bellies along each other. This belly scouring is remarkable. This behaviour is according to me not known for any other Phelsuma­ species.

Seeing at a female that she is with young is easy. Especially at the end of the gestation she is very thick. So thick even that one becomes to get afraid for complications like problems in deposition. The eggs are some bigger than eggs of day geckos of same size (e.g. Phelsuma quadriocellata parva). Due to the strong flattened body of P. klemmeri look these females towards the end of the gravid very thick.
Every other three weeks they deposited, as a rule two, eggs. P. klemmeri is a "non-gluer" and definitely not a "gluer" like in another earlier publication is mentioned (Henkel and Schmidt, 1991). During the entire deposition the female hangs by her front legs. She apparently curls her tail and uses her rear feets by way of protection around the eggs during the cure. She processes the two eggs simultaneously. The eventual shape of the eggs is also determined by the extent of a clasp during the cure. During that process the eggs are immovable been kept between the rear feet and the tail. Also when the egg is still weak it is hardly displaced. There is definitely not a bit of blow up or repeating feet and toe-movements like has sometimes been written. This could point to the fact that the egg has little glue-potency. The cure of the eggs can take up to more than one hour, after which she lets loose the eggs feet by feet and lets it fall. This could be on the ground, but most times it comes to rest in the axil of a Sansevieria or in the hollow of a bamboo stem.
The eggs are round-oval with a diameter of about 6 mm. They hatch after approximately 45 days. The duration is dependent of the incubation-temperature that varies between 22­32°C, the temperature of mine reptile room. Arai (1994) mentions 40-41 days at 28­29.5 °C. The juveniles are about 11 mm in size and qua colour identically to the adults. After-breed of P. klemmeri is hardly to distinguish from wild-captured-animals.

This is a juvenile.

Hatching of neonate P. klemmeri I have filmed, so that I have gained more view how the process elapses. When I slowly render the images, the film shows the still unborn neonate just before hatching, clearly begins to swivel in the egg. He manoeuvres himself so that he can stretch his body and with that breaks the egg shell. They do not have, for I have observed, an egg-tooth. The breaking open and the abandoning of the egg happen in a fraction of a second. After the hatchling has left the egg, he starts right away with his first shedding. When this does not elapse properly, it is most times fatal for the neonate. I fed the neonates on springtails, crickets of the smallest size (first stages) and small fruit flies. The neonates grow up very fast, within approximately five months they are sexually mature. Arai (1994) mentions 12­13 months. The growing speed is also determined by temperature and food supply. According to me the difference has to be looked for in there.
I conclude out of the quick growth that the life expectancy of the animals is not situated high. I presume that P. klemmeri gains an average age of approximately five years. The average life expectancy in terraria for small day gecko species is seven years, for the big species is this twenty years.

Results and Problems
I breed now a good four years with this species and become decently number's neonates. Till the beginning of July this year (1996) I already had 68 hatchlings. Right now have a breeding group of 40 animals of what some specimens are bred in the fifth generation in captivity. At the Phelsuma­associations there are announced between 1990 and April­May 1997 252 juveniles of P. klemmeri. That concerns announcements out of The Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Belgium.
At the breeding with this species are two problems at stake. The most important is the creating of good breeding couples. There for the price of the animals is quite high, often there will be bought one mere couple, that for long not always can cope with each other. If one serious want to breed with this species, then one must bought minimum three couples, so one has an opportunity to combine several males and females with each other.
A second problem is that females who lay eggs are sensitive for bone­decalcifying. One can this go ahead by supplying enough vitamin D3, calcium and, giving the females ones in a while a breed­break.


Please mail me if you have information of the other Phelsuma.

Arne Bakker.
Last updated, 16 November 1997.