“The gecko, the Taranto of Mauretania, is setting up home at high speed”

Have you seen the Tarentum of Mauretania around Bordeaux? At the beginning of the summer, the Cistude nature association launched a study with Bordeaux Métropole, on the installation of this species of gecko, native to the Mediterranean, in the Bordeaux metropolis. The inhabitants are thus invited to share their observations, to help the association to improve the monitoring of this species, and to measure the consequences. 20 minutes interviewed herpetologist and monitoring coordinator Matthieu Berroneau.

How long has the Tarentum of Mauretania settled in Bordeaux?

The very first observations of this strictly Mediterranean species date back to the beginning of the 2000s, but it has really been two years since we have seen increasingly strong returns. At the beginning, we had one or two reports, in the district of the station in Bordeaux, then we saw one or two young, which proved that there was reproduction, and for two years we have increasingly more data, which shows that this species is settling at high speed in our country.

Can you find it everywhere in Bordeaux now?

That’s really what we wanted to know, that’s why we launched this census campaign this year. And we had a lot of feedback this summer: we went from around fifteen reports in 2021 to 120 this year. It turns out that it is present almost everywhere, punctually in certain places such as Pessac, or in abundance in Nansouty, around the botanical garden on the right bank, or in Chartrons, where we have about thirty data each time. There are some in Bouscat, in Bruges, Talence, Bègles… We are also going to study whether there is a link between the installation of Tarente, and the temperature of the streets of the metropolis, thanks to the thermal mapping of Bordeaux Metropolis.

Is its presence in Bordeaux linked to global warming?

Absolutely, this gecko loves warm climates, and that’s a great indicator of global warming.

Have you been able to establish a map that is beginning to show its geographical evolution?

We have an increasingly precise map of the distribution of the species, showing that it is also found in rural areas. On a regional scale, we see that it followed the main axis of the Garonne. It colonized Toulouse, Villeneuve-sur-Lot, Marmande, Agen and Bordeaux. This is quite logical, because the climate around the Garonne is quite close to that of the Mediterranean. The Taranto is also anthropophilic, that is to say, it is very close to man, and it is often introduced by man, by climbing into freight trains for example. It is also the great fashion for olive trees – everyone wants their olive tree in their garden – which come from the Mediterranean areas, and it is often a refuge for Taranto. As the climate is now more favorable to it, there is a good chance that it will stay here.

What are the particularities of this species?

The gecko resembles the lizard but with a more flared shape, and it has a kind of suction cup at the end of each leg. In fact, it is microhairs that allow it to climb even on smooth surfaces, such as windows. The Taranto essentially comes out at night, where it becomes clearer, almost white. She is often seen on walls, chasing butterflies near lamps, especially on hot summer nights. During the day, it is rather dark, which allows it to warm up in the sun. A priori, it is not a species that will pose a problem in the long term, because it colonizes a place today empty of reptiles, apart from the presence of the wall lizard, but which does not have the same climbing abilities.

If you have observed the Taranto you can complete the document with your photos and descriptions.

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