Skip to main content

Villanova Professor and World-Renowned Gecko Lizard Expert Dr. Aaron Bauer Lends Expertise to New Exhibit at The Academy of Natural Sciences

“Geckos—Tails to Toepads,” the first gecko exhibit of its kind, comes to Philadelphia May 30-Sept. 7

Dr. Bauer received a new grant from the National Science Foundation to continue his gecko research, which has already helped to unravel much of the evolutionary history of these lizards

May 27, 2009

VILLANOVA, Pa., May 27, 2009 – As one of the world’s leading gecko lizard experts, Villanova University’s Dr. Aaron Bauer (Professor of Biology; Lemole Endowed Chair in Integrative Biology) was a natural choice to help create the exciting new exhibit, “Geckos—Tails to Toepads,” which opens May 30 at The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. For more than a year, when he wasn’t conducting groundbreaking research, teaching comparative vertebrate anatomy classes and directing Villanova University’s master’s program in biology, Dr. Bauer was serving as a scientific advisor for this new exhibit – which includes more than 75 live geckos and interactive features that allow visitors to better understand these extraordinary lizards.

Created by Peeling Productions at Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland of Allenwood, Pa., “Geckos—Tails to Toepads” is on display at The Academy of Natural Sciences from May 30-Sept. 7 and eventually will end up at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C. The exhibit is free with museum admission.

“For more than 20 years, I and my colleagues and students have been working on the evolutionary history of lizards and Villanova has been like "gecko central," said Dr. Bauer. “So I am especially happy that this exhibit, which makes some of this work accessible to the public, is right here in our own backyard. The Academy of Natural Sciences is a particularly appropriate setting for the exhibit given both its long tradition of herpetological research and its connections to Villanova University – most recently the jointly sponsored Gregor Mendel exhibit.”

Note: Dr. Aaron Bauer is available for interviews to discuss the exhibit and his research. Please contact the Villanova Media Relations Department (contact information below) to schedule a time to speak with him.

More than 75 geckos representing 18 species will be on display at The Academy of Natural Sciences. “Geckos—Tails to Toepads” features 20 naturalistic habitats allowing visitors to see the reptiles up close and activate devices to hear their squawks, chirps, barks and growls. Interactive components demonstrate their amazing night vision, remarkable camouflage and tremendous diversity of body parts. Visitors can “build” a gecko using a touch-screen computer to combine different eyes, feet, skin and tails to “customize” the gecko for a particular habitat, test their gecko knowledge and try to spot camouflaged geckos in the “Predator Challenge.”

Dr. Bauer, named the Gerald M. Lemole, M.D., Endowed Chair in Integrative Biology at Villanova University last November, is a prolific scholar and writer whose research interests include comparative anatomy, evolution and herpetology. He is currently investigating evolutionary patterns in reptiles and amphibians, typically discovering 10-20 new species of lizards each year.

Recently, Dr. Bauer’s research collaboration with the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum of Natural History has resulted in the discovery of two new families of geckos. He has also helped to raise money for gecko conservation by allowing one of his new gecko's names to be selected by an elementary school student as part of a national competition. In addition, Dr. Bauer just received a new grant from the National Science Foundation to continue his gecko research, which already has helped to unravel much of the evolutionary history of these lizards.

Villanova University, a co-educational Roman Catholic institution, was founded by the Order of Saint Augustine in 1842. A premier institution of higher education, Villanova provides a comprehensive education rooted in the liberal arts; a shared commitment to the Augustinian ideals of truth, unity and love; and a community dedicated to service to others. A wide variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered through the University’s four colleges: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering and the College of Nursing, as well as the Villanova School of Law. With a total enrollment that surpasses 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students, Villanova is the oldest and largest Catholic university in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.