Why Are Leopard Geckos Bumpy?

Leopard geckos are known to have very cool appearances, but with the fat tail, bumpy skin, and large ear canals, sometimes it’s hard not to wonder what these features mean aside from just being cute and adorable.  There isn’t a whole lot of information out there about why they have bumpy skin, but because I love to learn about these little guys (and girls) I decided to find out.

Why are leopard geckos bumpy?  They’re bumpy because the bumps serve as protection against rough surfaces and harsh conditions while they’re out in the wild.  This bumpy skin can be useful for falls, scrapes, and potentially even protection from attacks by small predators.

Although these bumps are cute, not many people know what purpose they serve.  But because they are from the wild, this tells us that the bumps are likely for survival or protection purposes as most of the things and abilities they have are.  Aside from what we already know though, let’s see what else we can find out about these bumps.  Maybe they serve another purpose.

What They’re Called and What Else They Do

If you’re someone who gets overly excited about learning and talking about leopard geckos like I am, then chances are that you already know a ton about them.  But if you don’t, I’ll be more than happy to explain a little further on what exactly those cute little bumps are on their backside are and what they’re used for.

The scientific name for them is called “tubercles” and aside from making our leopard geckos look awesome, cute, and providing them with a bit of protection, they also are there to make it difficult for predators to make out exactly what they are by breaking up the silhouette that’s cast by the sun shining down on them when out in the wild as well.

This is good because it can be easy to spot what kind of creature something is just by looking at their shadow, so the bumps serve as a great form of protection even when they’re not directly being attacked.

With the many predators that leopard geckos face while out in the wild whether that be foxes, owls, snakes, or lizards, these bumps are extremely useful for confusing predators and have likely allowed the leopard gecko to live as long as they have in the wild because of them.

And although these bumps are a little less useful while in captivity, they do look cool and they do serve some purpose by protecting them against rough surfaces within the tank such as decorations or any other rough pieces of equipment, for example.

Aside from the purpose that these bumps serve in the wild though, there are many other things to learn about the leopard gecko in the wild as well, so if you’d like to check an article I wrote on that to give you more insight into what they go through and what they’re faced with, then click here to check it out.

As stated in that article, knowing what life is like for them in the wild can help us understand and better take care of them while in captivity, so giving that a read and getting as much information as you can on them can really help out with raising your individual leopard gecko.

Are the Bumps Soft or Hard?

Off first glance, you would think that the bumps on their back are hard, but really, they are actually pretty soft.  Don’t get it mistaken though, they do still serve as great protection against rough surfaces, it’s just that the leopard geckos skin has adapted this way over time.

Aside from allowing protection from the living conditions they’re subjected to, the bumps really don’t serve too much of a purpose outside of that.  They may seem insignificant, but the role they do play is pretty critical for their survival while out in the wild and they utilize them to stay protected at all times whether that be outside of the tank or inside of the tank.

As stated above, the bumps make the shadow that’s cast more broken up to confuse predators in the wild, but just like most of their senses and physical attributes, it’s not a very effective feature that they have while they’re in our tanks.

Unless you’ve taken your leopard gecko outside, you might not have ever seen that these bumps actually do make them unrecognizable when looking at their shadows.  So when you get the chance, take them outside when the sun is shining down and see if this is actually true.  I’ve never done this with my leopard gecko, but I think it could turn out looking pretty cool.

Another Physical Form of Protection

Although it seems like it would make more sense for the bumps on their back to be on their stomach as well considering that their underside is what’s most exposed to rocks, debris, and other objects in their natural habitat that might harm them, that’s just not the case.

But, what they do have to protect them in addition to their bumps is scales, but just like how the bumps cover the top side, the scales cover the bottom.  Both types of skin are meant to protect them, but you will find that the scales on their stomach are a bit harder than their bumps.

While they both play the same role, the scales will likely give a little more protection, and rightfully so, because as stated above, their bottom side is exposed to objects that are a lot harder and without this tough skin on the bottom, they could be subjected to scrapes, cuts, and potentially even punctures from rocks with sharp edges.

Again, this is not something that they have to worry about while in captivity, thankfully, but there still are substrates out there that could pose a threat to their health by irritating the skin depending on what type it is.

Their bodies were built for enduring very harsh desert conditions, but that does not mean they are invincible.  We should remember to take care of them to the best of our ability and not put anything in their tank that could harm their skin or overall well-being while in our possession.

There are plenty of good substrates out there that are good for them but there are also a ton that are bad for them as well.  If you’d like to learn more about the ones that are both bad and good, I suggest taking a look at this article I wrote here.

Their backs and top side of their body should be protected at all times despite having the protective bumps, but their bottom needs to be protected as well.  Even though they aren’t in the wild, there are mistakes that can be made that can put them at great risk of getting injured even while being in the comfort of our own homes.

While most equipment made for leopard geckos is safe, sadly, some of it isn’t.  Because substrates are the main cause for why they would experience skin irritation on their bellies though, we should first start there in order to keep them safe.

With that said, instead of getting certain types of substrates like bark chips and pine which are both very rough and pokey, I recommend coconut fiber instead.  There are other substrates out there that aren’t harsh on their skin, but then again, a lot of them cause impaction as well, and that’s another big thing that we want to avoid when putting substrate in their tank.

The same goes for the other equipment in our tank.  If there is shed stuck on our leopard geckos, then they will rub the part of the body where the stuck shed is on a rough surface until it’s raw and sore.  And while their stomachs are built for protection, again, they’re not invincible.

It’s okay to have decorations in your tank that are a little on the rougher side such as decorative logs, but it’s important that we keep our sheds moist so that they can have an easy shed and not have to rub their bodies on surfaces that could be harmful to them.

Shed can get stuck on the bottom or top of their bodies, and even though both are protected with bumps and scales, they can be easily damaged with the wrong equipment in your tank.


Although the bumps on the top of their body serve multiple purposes, the scales on the bottom of it plays a role that is just as important.  Even though the top of them is softer than the bottom, it still does a great job of providing them with protection and disguising them from potential predators by casting a confusing shadow that makes it hard to make out what they are when they’re out walking in the wild.

Luckily while in captivity, they don’t have to worry about being attacked from the various different predators that they would have been subjected to while not in captivity.  So, instead of these bumps being used for survival reasons, they’re now just used for us overly loving owners to gawk at in adoration.

I’m Devin Nunn, an average joe that just so happens to have a deep love and passion for everything to do with reptiles. Because taking care of them for the vast majority of my life wasn’t fulfilling enough, I decided to begin educating others about them through my articles. read more...