The California Native International Adventures

Since 1983

From The California Native Newsletter:

Lizards That Walk on Water

As you cruise along a Costa Rican river, you'll see strange looking lizards go charging from the banks, standing on their hind legs, running across the river—literally “walking on water.” Costa Ricans call them “Jesus Christ lizards.”

The Jesus Christ lizards are more properly known as basilisks—a colorful name referring to the legendary monsters whose breath and glances were fatal to those unfortunate enough to encounter them. Basilisks are quite large, as lizards go, up to three feet long, and the males have large crests on their heads, backs, and tails. This, and the fact that they run on two legs makes them look like little dinosaurs.

The name Jesus Christ lizard refers, of course, to their ability to walk on water. They do this by running very quickly over the water's surface on their large hind feet, which have flaps of skin along each toe. This ability is best developed in young lizards, who can run twenty yards or more over the water without sinking. The ability to “walk on water” helps the basilisks catch food and escape from predators.

Basilisks eat almost everything, including insects, shrimp, scorpions, other lizards, snakes, fish, small mammals, birds, flowers and fruit.

Their only natural enemies are raptors, opossums and snakes, who view the basilisks as potential dinners. To protect themselves while they sleep, the basilisks bed down in vegetation overhanging water, and, when the vegetation is disturbed, dive to safety.

Come with us to Costa Rica and meet the Jesus Christ lizards as well as the many other exotic birds and animals that dwell in the forests and rivers of this magical little country at the center of the Americas.

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