A very special lizard for its ability to “walk on water,” the basilisk lizard is so fast you might even miss it zipping by. I had the fortune of being in a pontoon boat in Costa Rica when a basilisk skittered in front of us.
When I saw it happen, I almost couldn’t believe it. A lizard flying across the water’s surface? With its back upright, Basiliscus runs across the water with it’s hind legs hitting the water. The large hind legs smack the water while scaly fringes on the toes expand, thereby increasing the size of the foot. They’re also called the “Jesus Christ Lizard.”
We were looking for herons when I saw this freaky upright lizard go sailing by. Within a minute he crossed the channel in front of us and rested on a log (pictured here). Our guide told us what had just happened, and managed the boat so that we could see it one more time. This individual was was about 12″ long, but other adults can grow to twice that length.
They can be found in Central and South American rainforests near rivers. I’ve seen other basilisks since then, but not in the water; that was a lucky day. The day I saw this speedy lizard spin a dance before my eyes.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander