Costa Rica's Jesus Christ Lizard Will Impress Even Non-Believers

September 14, 2011
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Wildlife enthusiasts on a Costa Rica tour often hope to glimpse sea turtles, but the country is also home to a bright green lizard that can run across the surface of water at the rate of five feet per second.

While it was named for its resemblance to the legendary monster, the green basilisk lizard is more commonly known for its ability to run across streams and puddles, earning its evocative nickname.

But there are no holy spirits moving this two-foot-long reptile. The long toes on its back feet have broad fringes of skin that unfurl in the water, which increases surface area. Running, it rapidly moves its legs and slaps its spread feet hard against the water. This creates an air pocket that keeps it from sinking — as long as it can maintain its speed.

The basilisk lizard can move in this way for at least 15 feet before it has to rely on its swimming skills, which are also excellent. Adult lizards can remain underwater for up to 30 minutes.

This flight across water is usually out of fear of a predator. When threatened, a basilisk lizard can drop out of a tree and start sprinting.


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