I just met my first Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius macularius). His name is Puck, as in both the Shakespearean sprite and the floor-hugging hockey prop. He's quite cute. Leopard geckos are smallish lizards (herps to those in the know, short for herpetological or 'pertaining to reptiles and amphibians') which are cold-blooded, carnivorous and thermophilic. They eat insects, and really enjoy basking tummy-down on anything warm, which of course includes humans.

Some funny things about Leopard Geckoes. One, you can see through their heads. Really! They have large, clear ear canals (no external pinnae), and if you look into one, it is separated near the middle of the skull from the opposing one by a thin membrane alone. Light flows freely. Also, if you have them open up wide and look at the top of their mouth, their heads are translucent save for their eyeballs, which looks silly.

Males (like the one I met) are approximately four to eight inches long. They have nubbled spines all over their dorsal surface, which is, in the case of the high yellow variant, yellow with black spots. One of their more distinctive features, even among lizards, is their tails. The tail is soft, and the first third of it is quite wide: the leopard gecko, being a desert dweller, uses this pad of fat in the running gear to store water in dry times.

They're scaled, naturally, and thus aren't at all slimy or unpleasant to hold. If you pick one up with your fingers, they'll reflexively grip your fingertips with their small hands, which is pretty )*$)# cute. They have fairly sinister smiles (sort of like a crocodile) from the front, and gorgeous vertical-slit iris eyes. Males tend to smell of musk a bit (smells like urine and a more general stink) but not enough to make holding them noisome. If a Leopard Gecko is unsure of what something is, he'll typically get nose to nose with it and then (delicately) touch it with his tongue to identify it though taste.

Finally, if you place one on your lapel and it's relatively cool around you, he'll stay perfectly still on your jacket or shirt as he sucks up thermal energy - unless someone touches him. This can start some great conversations.

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