Spot the lizard: The Satanic Leaf-Tailed Gecko that has a truly devilish disguise
By Philip Case
Last updated at 10:11 AM on 14th October 2009
To the less discerning eye, it could be a leaf shrivelling up on a tree fighting the onset of the first autumn chill.
But this amazing form is in fact a lizard which can camouflage itself so well that it actually looks like a leaf.
Perched on a branch, this Satanic leaf-tailed gecko has blended itself into its surroundings so expertly that even making out its coil-shaped body among the foliage is no mean feat.
Can you tell what it is yet? A fantastic Satanic leaf-tailed gecko camouflaged in a national park in Madagascar
Its curvy body - at the top of the image - is only a slightly lighter hue of brown than the dark leaf it has tangled itself around.
As your eyes move across to the right of the picture, you can just about see its torso making a single corkscrew movement as its darker brown tail tapers off to the right.
To the left of the picture, the gecko's head can be seen as well as its left arm and left leg which squats under its body.
The stunning image of the species was captured at the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park in Madagascar.
Satanic leaf-tailed geckos (Uroplatus phantasticus) can reach a total of length of 9cm, and its range is in the central eastern side of the African island.
The lizard can amazingly mimic a dead leaf, and it can coil its whole body to resemble a curled up leaf with its tail leaf shape. Its excellent camouflage skills mean it can 'blend' into its natural environment of the rainforests of Madagascar, an exotic island off the eastern coast of south Africa.
Satanic leaf geckos get their name because they look like they have 'horns' and some specimens have red eyes. Two eggs are laid and hatch after 60 to 70 days.
The gecko's colouration can be brown or grey and it can transform itself into amazing yellow, green, orange and pink hues.
Geckos are one of Madagascar's most unique species. As they sleep flattened against trees of branches with their heads pointing downwards, they can adjust their body coloration to their surroundings.
Inactive during the day, geckos move only when disturbed. They respond to prodding with an impressive display of a brightly coloured gaping mouth and an erect tail. And at night, the lizards hunt insects.
The leaf-tailed gecko family has nine members ranging in size from 8cm to 30cm. Larger members of the genus have beards and fringes around the whole body.
When at rest laying head down on a mossy or lichen covered branch, geckos are almost impossible to see.
The gecko is a master at disguise. Its large eyes help this nocturnal species hunt its prey, large mouths are capable of tackling oversized prey.
Geckos are totally adapted to life in a primary rainforest and their disguises are so cryptic, that their species and sub-species are still being discovered today.
Locals are afraid of them and refer to them as the devil. When disturbed, larger members of the species stand up open mouthed and let out a large hiss.