The basilisk, the lizard that walks on the water


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By César Barrios Amorós
Photos by César Barrios Amorós

Some name this reptile, Jesus Christ lizard, because it can run on water. In Costa Rica, it is known by other names such as cherepo, gallego, and basilisk. It is a medium-sized lizard (larger than small lizards but smaller than iguanas). It inhabits riverbanks and streams throughout the Costa Rican pacific slope. It is very fast and nervous, and swiftly flees when it feels threatened.

basiliskThe males have very striking dorsal crests on their head, back, and tail. They feed on insects and small vertebrates, and at the same time; they are prey for snakes, raptors, and carnivorous mammals. These diurnal and semi-aquatic lizards spend the day sunbathing, foraging for food, and resting by the river. At night, when it is time to sleep, they prefer to climb on a tall branch.

Three to seven times per season, the females make a nest, laying between 4 and 18 eggs, which will hatch after two or three months of incubation.

Its most prominent feature is its ability to run fast on water; this is possible because their feet are equipped with flaps of skin along the toes of their feet.

When it needs to escape from predators, it starts running fast on his hind legs, moving its feet so quickly that they do not break the water surface, allowing it to run for a brief distance. Younger basilisk can run more than 20 meters without sinking.

If cornered, they can also escape diving and swimming until they are far enough from the predator.

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