Fact Check

Is This a Photograph of a Flying Lizard?

The last thing we need is flying lizards competing for airspace with birds, drones, and aircraft.

Published Nov 18, 2014

A photograph captures a "satanic leaf-tailed gecko" or a "flying lizard" with wings like a dragon.

On 12 November 2014, the Twitter account @EarthBeauties posted a photograph of what was claimed to be a "satanic leaf-tailed gecko":

Nearly four years later, the "Pictures in History" Facebook page posted the same photograph, describing the pictured creature as a "flying lizard":

The animal seen here is indeed a type of lizard known as the satanic leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus phantasticus), but it does not actually have wings. Those dragon-like appendages were added to a photograph taken by author, entomologist, and photographer Piotr Naskrecki.

Naskrecki, who is also the photographer behind the amazing "puppy-sized spider" photographs, posted the unaltered images of the gecko on his blog The Smaller Majority on 22 September 2012:

The gecko grew wings about a year later when the photograph was posted to the Hybrid Animals subreddit, which encourages participants to "Create new animals by combining species with each other and/or with any other stuff you find appropriate. Using Photoshop."

The altered photograph began spreading online and received a big viral push on 9 June 2013 when it was retweeted by the Game Of Thrones Twitter account:

The doctored photograph of the satanic leaf-tailed gecko has seen a few spikes in popularity since it first went viral in 2013, and it will likely see a few more surges over the years. But regardless of how many times the image goes viral, this species of gecko will never sprout wings nor become a member of the dragon family.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

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