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Page last updated at 11:27 GMT, Tuesday, 15 February 2011
Night time hunt of ghostly gecko

The hunter becomes the hunted

In rarely captured footage, a giant "ghostly gecko" has been filmed hunting at night.

The leaf or flat-tailed gecko has a flattened tail, huge head and eyes, a fringe around the body and an uncanny ability to disappear from sight as it camouflages itself against tree trunks.

If disturbed the gecko raises its tail and head, opens its mouth and screams.

But at night, the hunted becomes the hunter, a behaviour filmed for the BBC documentary Madagascar.

Commonly known as the flat-tailed or giant leaf-tailed gecko, Uroplatus fimbriatus lives in tropical rain forest in eastern Madagascar.

Large individuals can grow up to 30cm long.

As well as being threatened by habitat destruction, the geckos are sought after for the pet trade, which threatens their survival in the wild.

The geckos are nocturnal, so to survive by day they choose a favourite tree, the bark of which most closely matches their skin colour.

Fringes of skin around the body then break up the gecko's outline, and as the animal sits motionless for hours on end, it becomes almost invisible against the bark.

But as night falls, it is transformed.

Giant leaf-tailed gecko
Hiding from view during the day

The geckos ventures into the ghostly dark, where it is not about camouflage, but about stealth and surprise.

Large mouths packed with sharp teeth help it take difficult prey.

But it is the gecko's huge eyes which make the real difference.

The gecko's sight is 350 times more sensitive than the human eye, allowing it to see colour in even the dimmest moonlight.

Because it has no eyelids, the gecko must lick its eyeballs to keep them clean and its vision unimpaired.

Madagascar continues on BBC TWO at 2000 GMT on Wednesday, February 16.

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