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Hoplodactylus delcourti facts for kids

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Hoplodactylus delcourti
Gecko de Delcourt Hoplodactylus delcourti GLAM MHNL 2016 3742.jpg
Conservation status

Extinct  (1870) (IUCN 2.3)
Scientific classification

Hoplodactylus delcourti, also commonly known as kawekaweau, Delcourt's sticky-toed gecko or Delcourt's giant gecko, is an extinct species of lizard, the largest known of all geckos, with a snout-to-vent length (SVL) of 370 mm (14.6 in) and an overall length (including tail) of at least 600 mm (23.6 in). It was endemic to New Zealand, where it may have been called kawekaweau. The idea that Hoplodactylus delcourti is the kawekaweau of Maori tradition has been contested.


According to his own report, in 1870, a Māori chief killed a kawekaweau he found under the bark of a dead rata tree in the forests of the Waimana Valley, (now protected as part of the northern section of Te Urewera National Park). This is the only documented report of anyone ever seeing one of these animals alive. He described it as being "brownish with reddish stripes and as thick as a man's wrist". Whether his story was true or not is unknown. A single stuffed museum specimen was "discovered" in the basement of the Natural History Museum of Marseille in 1986; however, the origins and date of collection of the specimen remain a mystery, as when it was found, it was not labelled. Scientists examining it have suggested that it was from New Zealand and was in fact the lost "kawekaweau", a giant and mysterious forest lizard of Maori oral tradition. Attempts to extract DNA from the sole specimen in 1994 were unsuccessful though ancient DNA technology has significantly advanced since then. Trevor Worthy suggests that the specimen originated on an island of New Caledonia rather than New Zealand, due to a lack of fossil evidence.


This animal's specific epithet, delcourti, is taken from the surname of French museum worker Alain Delcourt, who discovered the forgotten specimen in the basement of the Natural History Museum of Marseille. Of the native New Zealand gekkonid fauna, there are two major lineages. The kawekaweau belongs to the nocturnal brown gecko lineage. The distribution of this gecko is restricted to Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia areas.

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