Holiday snap: the Jesus Christ lizard

March 18, 2009 • 2:43 pm

This is a green basilisk lizard (Basiliscus plumifrons) that I saw on my recent “lecture cruise” to the Caribbean.  This specimen was in the vegetation lining the Tortuguero Canal near Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.  These basilisks are endearing because, with their striking crests, they look for all the world like little dinosaurs.  They are called “Jesus Christ lizards” because they can actually run over the surface of water for up to 5 meters at amazing speed. They do this by slapping their splayed, filamentous feet hard against the water surface, which creates air pockets that keep them from sinking. I have seen them do this, and it’s incredible.  Another marvel of evolution!


Here’s a great slow-motion video of another species of basilisk running on the water. Pretty amazing. . .