More than 1,200 animal species can walk on water, but have you ever heard of a minuscule lizard that can float in water? If not, then let me introduce to you the pygmy gecko.
The Amazon Pygmy gecko, also known as Pseudogonatodes guianensis, is one of the smallest lizards known in the world. It belongs to the Sphaerodactylidae family, a species of geckos commonly found living deep in the Amazon. The Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest located in South America.
The South American lizard species only grows 24mm long (from head to tail). Its size is comparable to a US $1 coin and can sit on a fingertip! You can also think of a small paper clip—that’s how tiny this pygmy gecko is!
The pygmy gecko is oviparous, meaning it’s an animal that lays eggs. It typically eats tiny arthropods and other tiny invertebrates, such as mites and springtails.
The pygmy gecko is best known as the Unsinkable Lizard because of its ability to float and effortlessly walk on the surface of the water.
You might be wondering how pygmy geckos do that?
This is thanks to the pygmy gecko’s small size (less than 1/2 inches) and superhydrophobic skin (water-repellant). This tiny lizard’s remarkable skin is covered with millions of tiny hairs, also known as spines, which create air pockets. These air pockets prevent the water from touching the skin, making a pygmy gecko entirely waterproof. It’s like this reptile is wearing a tiny raincoat!
However, its tiny size makes it vulnerable to drowning and getting hit by raindrops, which can be fatal to this small lizard. As a result, scientists believe pygmy geckos evolved to have this kind of ability and overcome the dangers.
It has adapted to have superhydrophobic skin which enables the pygmy gecko to stay afloat when flooding occurs in the Amazon rainforest. Because it’s so small and light, it can rest above water! its weight is entirely supported by water surface tension.
Surface tension is the force that causes liquids to act like skin, or a thin elastic sheet. Water has a strong surface tension because all the molecules on the surface like to stick together. This allows the surface to hold up weight and allow things to float on top of it. It is also why surface tension plays a crucial role in the pygmy gecko’s superpowers.
Did you know that other kinds of lizards can also walk, and even run across water?
One example is the green basilisk lizard, also referred to as the Jesus Christ lizard.