Gonatodes machelae


 


Distribution:


Gonatodes machelae only occurs on the summit of Cerro Copey, on Margarita Island and the adjacent mainland of Venezuela.

Description:


Gonatodes machelae was described by Carlos Rivero Blanco in 1979. The description was however, not officially recognized, thus Gonatodes "machelae" is still waiting for official recognition. Previously there have been several reports of Gonatodes ocellatus on Margarita Island. These animals were most probably Gonatodes machelae. Due to the lack of official scientific descriptions, you would actually have to call Gonatodes machelae, Gonatodes sp. "Margarita Island". For simplicity sake however, and because the species will soon officially be described as Gonatodes machelae (RIVERO BLANCO, oral communication), we refer to it as such here.
Gonatodes machelae is one of the smallest species of the genus Gonatodes. Both sexes reach a total length of approximately 7 centimeters, with their tail making up for more than half of their size.
The pupils of Gonatodes machelae are round, which identifies them as diurnal. The toes of the animals lack adhesive discs, thus the animals are not capable of handling smooth surfaces, such as glass. Instead they posses claws on the ends of their toes, which they use for climbing and clinging to rough structures. This species, can like all other species of the genus Gonatodes drop their tail when gripped, as a defense mechanism. The males have a sexual characteristic between the hind legs in the form of shiny scales (Escutcheon). Males are gorgeously colored. Their head is yellow or orange, with or without a black mesh pattern. Laterally, on their neck, is a black eye patch with white center. Their body is gray-brown with light gray dorsal stripes. The tail is reddish-brown. Females are colored more simple. Their body is mainly gray-brown, dorsally they have a light gray diamond pattern from their neck to tail. A thin ribbon wraps around their neck. Their tail is reddish-brown.
Juveniles are similar in appearance to the adult females upon hatching. At about 3 months of age, their changes come quickly. Young males will now begin to have a yellow throat and increasing adult coloration will be seen from this point on.

Habitat:


The distribution of Gonatodes machelae is limited to the summit regions of Cerro Copey, at an altitude of about 1000 meters, as well as the opposite mountains of the Venezuelan mainland. The animals live between Ground-living bromeliads and rocks. On clear days the temperatures reach up to 30C (86F) during the day. The passing clouds bring a lot of moisture, so the humidity is saturated by the evening until the next morning. At night the temperature drops to about 15C (59F).

Husbandry and Breeding:


Gonatodes machelae can be housed as a couple or individually in a relatively small terrarium. A cube measuring 30 centimeters is sufficient for a couple. In much larger terrariums the animals unfortunately remain very hidden, so I would advise against larger terrariums, if you wish to enjoy viewing this beautiful species.
The rear and sidewalls of the terrarium should be covered with cork or an artificial rock structure, thus allowing them more locations for activity. The substrate should be a mixture of 1/3 sand and 2/3 softened coco peat brick. Natural vegetation, can be a mixture of plants such as Peperomia species, Neoregelia lilliputiana, N. ampullacea or Begonia prismatocarpa. A small water bowl and a bowl of eggshells (from older hatchlings) or cuttlefish bone (crushed - not ground) are a must in completing the setup.
Lighting via T5 or T8 tubes should be provided. The daily lighting period in summer should be for 12 hours and later reduced to 8 hours during winter. In addition, a small halogen pucklight should be switched on at lunchtime. Under this, the animals are often seen sunning themselves. If the lighting is well adapted to the terrarium size, no further heating is needed. For better lighting control, the use of a timer is recommended. The daily temperatures should be maintained between 26-30C (78.8-86F), with a nightly drop just below 20C (68F). Smaller reductions at night, between 22-24C (71.6-75.2F), are also sufficient in keeping Gonatodes machelae successfuly. The terrarium is sprayed daily, so that the humidity levels during the day are about 50-70% and close to 100% nightly.
The adult animals are fed twice a week with a well varied diet, in the appropriate size, consisting of small crickets, firebrats, Drosophila, bean beetles, woodlice, cockroaches and small aphids. All feeder insects must be dusted with the approriate supplements at every feeding.
As soon as the temperature and lighting periods are increased, the breeding season begins. Following a successful pairing, the female lays a single egg in a sheltered location 3 weeks later. Usually she will choose to lay this egg, in a cork or Japanese knowteed (Reynoutria japonica) tube, but she may also bury it in the substrate or under a piece of cork, if one is laying on the ground. The young will emerge at about 70 days if the incubation temperature is kept around 27C (80.6F). It should be noted that if you leave the eggs in the terrarium to incubate the young should be caught as quickly as possible, as it has been observed by many, that the young will be fully missing tails or tips if left in the terrarium with the adults for too long. Therefore it is highly recommended to remove the eggs for incubation. The young animals measure between 2.6-3.2 centimeters upon hatching. The offspring can be reared communally or individually with other dwarf species (not other Gonatodes species, as aggression can occur) in small household containers, which have been converted to allow for proper ventilation. The containers should be similar in setup to the terrariums of the adults, minus the addition of a heat lamp. Offspring are fed three times a week, so they grow fast. They may be fed for example with pinhead crickets, firebrats, woodlice, aphids, Drosophila and springtails. Like the adults, all food should be dusted with the appropriate supplements. At about 3 months, it is possible to tell the difference between young males and females based on coloring of the offspring. With proper feeding and care, the offspring will be fully grown at about 8 months.
Gonatodes machelae are both pretty and small gems to have in the terrarium. Males have at all times the most beautiful colors and with proper terrarium design, the animals prove to be curious and exciting terrarium inhabitants. Gonatodes machelae is still relatively uncommon in Europe, fortunately, however, the number of breeders is increasing.

Text und Fotos: Dennis Hluschi, Leipzig

Translation: Maureen Winter, Münster

Gonatodes machelae (Male, reticulated head)

Gonatodes machelae (Male, reticulated head)

Gonatodes machelae (Male ventral, reticulated head)

Gonatodes machelae (Male, solid yellow head)

Gonatodes machelae (Male, solid yellow head)

Gonatodes machelae (Male, solid yellow head)

Gonatodes machelae (Female)

Gonatodes machelae (Female)

Gonatodes machelae (Female, ventral)

Gonatodes machelae (Mating)

Gonatodes machelae (Hatchling)

Gonatodes machelae (Tank)