Run Gecko Run (Don't Ever Look Back)

How do scientists study running performance? Well, with humans we'd take subjects out onto a track and measure how fast they could sprint between two points.

With geckoes?

It's pretty much the same. Except we have
to design a track that encourages the gecko to move as quickly as it can in a straight line. (Because geckoes aren't as good at taking verbal directions as humans are ... )

Skye's current experiment is based around this running track. She puts a gecko into the near end (as shown in the top photo) and then chases it down the track with a foam paddle. Don't worry, the gecko's fine - the paddle is just to prevent it from stopping or turning around or anything that might disrupt measurements.

As the gecko runs down the track (away from us, in this picture), it passes the 4 light sensors that help Skye to accurately record the gecko's speed. Skye repeats the run 3 times more, so that she can get the gecko's fastest performance (best of 12 time splits - 3 trials x 4 sensors).

After measuring running performance, Skye takes the weight of the gecko to account for its body size in her calculations. This is because larger geckoes will be able to run faster independently of temperature.

Then, the gecko returns to its home in the lab.

Each gecko completes 8 running trials at temperatures between 15 and 38 degrees Celcius. Some populations won't ever have seen some of these temperature extremes in the wild (and others will have). 

Skye is predicting that where a gecko comes from will affect how it performs at these different temperatures. For example, at low temperatures geckoes from tropical North Queensland should perform more poorly than geckoes from Brisbane - because, in nature, Brisbane geckoes experience low temperatures every year (and tropical geckoes don't). 

Skye's still working hard measuring gecko running speeds ... so we can't tell you any results yet. But watch this space!