Leopard Gecko Death Roll – Enigma Syndrome

Now, I know what you’re thinking straight away… This sounds dangerous. A leopard gecko death roll. Commonly speaking, when we hear the phrase “death roll”, we automatically think of a crocodile. Croc’s have a very particular hunting method, which include a death roll, and well, this couldn’t be further from a leopard gecko death roll.

(Please scroll down to the bottom of the page to find ‘Other related articles you might like’, once you are done reading).

A leopard gecko death roll isn’t anything to do with a method of hunting or capturing their prey. It’s actually a sign of unhealthiness in leopard geckos, so this is definitely something a gecko owner should be well aware of.

So what is a leopard gecko death roll?

A leopard gecko death roll is a symptom given to an act which resembles a leopard gecko rolling over. The “death” part come from its severity, and the potentiality of death which come with the related illnesses.

A leopard gecko death roll is a symptom which is closely related to Enigma Syndrome, or ES. Enigma Syndrome is a neurological disorder which effects a leopard geckos balance and awareness. Some morphs of leopard geckos are more vulnerable than others to get Enigma Syndrome, but none are completely exempt. Unfortunately, Enigma Syndrome is not a curable disorder either, so once it has been diagnosed, it has to be managed carefully.

Lets look a little closer at the death roll and how a leopard gecko gets Enigma Syndrome

This is where it gets a little complicated, so get ready for some science. Enigma Syndrome is transmitted through leopard geckos cells. So it is passed down through generations if parental leopard geckos are affected with the Enigma gene. 

There are 19 pairs of chromosomes in a leopard geckos cell. Every leopard gecko has two copies of each gene, and these are called alleles. Only one single copy of the Enigma gene can cause symptoms to ES.

Those of which have that gene are either heterozygous or homozygous dominant. So to make it easier to understand, if “E” = Enigma, then “EE” and “Ee” leopard geckos are affected. You can say these leopard geckos have Enigma Syndrome.

Homozygous leopard geckos can be seen as “ee”. This means they are 100% Enigma (E) exempt, and therefore can not pass the Enigma trait on to its offspring.

Most leopard geckos which have the Enigma gene are Heterozygous. This is seen as “Ee”, which means they are affected by the Enigma gene. 

Leopard geckos which are “EE” are completely Enigma and classed as lethal. At this point, most leopard geckos will have miscarriages. If their offspring is lucky enough to survive, then they will also be “EE”. 

I suggest you read that a couple of times to get your head around it. 

Other symptoms of Enigma Syndrome other than the Leopard Gecko Death Roll

There are another 5 symptoms of Enigma syndrome other than the leopard gecko death roll. These are Star Gazing, Head Tilting, Unable to catch prey, Seizures and Circling. All of these symptoms are affected by the lack of balance and awareness.

Start Gazing

This is commonly quite a hard one to spot as it closely resembles a leopard geckos day to day movements, but it’s definitely one you should remember. Leopard geckos which stare in tot he same space for a long period of time could well have Enigma Syndrome. Although geckos do like to stare a lot, doing it for a longer period of time could be a sign of ES. 

It’s thought that leopard geckos do this to stable themselves. Almost like humans do with with sea sickness or nausea. Humans are told a stare at a grounded object in the distance. This is meant to steady your brain from motion, and this is very similar to what leopard geckos often do.

Head Tilting

There are many different reason why a leopard gecko may be tilting its head. Although in this instant, we’re concerned when a leopard gecko is walking with its head tilted. This means they are off balance and disorientated. 

Unable To Catch Food

If you have noticed that your leopard gecko can not catch their food, then this might be a sign of Enigma Syndrome. If they are attempting to catch their food, but they seen a bit off, then their awareness could be affected. 

This is a very common sign of ES. One thing you can try is to chill the live food, so they become slow. This gives your leopard gecko a better chance of catching their meal compared to active live foods.


This is considered one of the most serious symptoms of Enigma Syndrome. Many people seem to miss seizures as they are not always there to see them, however there are some signs to look for in the aftermath. 

Most seizures mean that a leopard geckos front half of their bodies will completely give out. Their limbs become limp and unable to move. And something they may even scream, or make very strange noises which you may have never heard before. So listen out for this, you can not miss it.


When a leopard geckos balance is affected quite severely, they can sometimes be seen to just walk round in circles. Unfortunately they are trying to walk in a straight line but can not seen to do so. It will take them forever to get to where they want to be (Usually a basking rock).

This isn’t all the time and can come and go from time to time. In this case dimming the lights can help with nausea and can help to bring their balance back to a manageable state. 

If you have seen any of these symptoms, then please visit a veterinarian as soon as possible to get it diagnosed as soon as possible. They will have methods to control such symptoms and provide detailed solutions to what you should be doing.

How to care for Enigma Syndrome and leopard gecko death rolls?

  1. You should always house leopard geckos with ES alone. Pairing leopard geckos with ES can cause bullying from the other housemate. This will cause your gecko with ES a lot of stress, which will only make the disorder worse.
  2. Try not to handle a leopard gecko with ES too often. This again will cause a lot of stress which in tail will worsen the disorder.
  3. Set up the enclosure in a quiet room. A room with no TV or pets which roam free. The flashing lights from the Tv and the threat of a predator will case more stress.
  4. Train your leopard gecko to eat from tongs from a young age. Doing this from a young age will help in future is the disorder worsens.
  5. Remove any bright UVB lights from the enclosure. If you d have them, make sure they are on a low brightness. 
  6. Provide a healthy diet every day and make sure to use supplements. Supplements can play a bug part in the management of ES.
  7. The enclosure sound be simply set up. No high branches or rocks in which the gecko can fall from height. 
  8. Include extra hides for your gecko. They will likely need more than one places to hide so offering at least two or three should be sufficient. 
  9. Only take your gecko out of its enclosure if it’s necessary.
  10. Don’t breed any leopard geckos with Enigma. Breeding is very stressful and can sometimes leave to death in both mother and offspring.  


If you witness you’re leopard gecko doing a death roll, then you should visit a veterinarian as soon as possible. These signs can also be symptoms of other diseases or disorders, so get a professionals opinion or diagnoses.

Try to create an environment which is stress free for your gecko with ES. They will need to be monitored closely, specially when feeding, to make sure their situation doesn’t worsen.

Hopefully this has cleared up some unknowns about the leopard gecko death roll.

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Leopard Gecko Death Roll – Enigma Syndrome

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