The Common basilisk
) is a lizard
found in Central
and South American
rainforests near rivers and streams. It is also known as the Jesus lizard
or largato de Jesus Christo
for its ability to run on the surface of water.
Taxonomy and etymology
The Common basilisk is named for the creature of Greek mythology
made up of parts of a rooster
, and lion which could turn a man to stone by its gaze: the Basilisk
. Its generic
and common names all derive from the Greek basilískos
(βασιλίσκος) meaning "little king". The specific epithet was given in Carolus Linnaeus
' 10th edition of Systema Naturae
Range and habitat
The Common basilisk is found throughout Central and South America from Panama
. It has been introduced to Florida
as a feral
The Common basilisk is a diurnal
lizard which has long toes and sharp claws. Their heads are adorned with both a crest
and a coloured dewlap
. Most are under 25 centimetres (1 foot) in length, but some may grow up 75 centimetres and usually weigh between 200-600 grams.
It has a diet consisting of insects
, flowers and small vertebrates like snakes
. The basilisk has numerous predators including large birds of prey, snakes, fish, other larger reptiles, and mammals.
Females lay three to four clutches of 10-20 eggs
a year. Eggs hatch after about three months and the young weigh about 2 grams. Their outstanding camouflage allows them to remain undetected when they remain motionless in the undergrowth.
Ability to walk on water
The basilisk is part of the corytophanid family. It, along with the Brown basilisk, has the nickname the "Jesus Christ Lizard" or "Jesus Lizard" because when fleeing from a predator, it gathers sufficient momentum to run on thesuurface of the water for a brief distance. Basilisks have large hind feet with flaps of skin between each toe, much like the webbing on a frog. These are rolled up when the lizard walks on land; but if the basilisk senses danger, it can open up this webbing to increase the surface area on the water relative to its weight, thus allowing it to run on water for short distances. Smaller basilisks can run about 10-20 meters on the water surface without sinking, and can usually run farther than older basilisks.