Basiliscus (lizard)

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Basiliscus is a genus of large corytophanid lizards, commonly known as basilisks, which are endemic to southern Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. The genus contains four species, which are commonly known as the Jesus Christ lizard, or simply the Jesus lizard, due to their ability to run across water for significant distances before sinking due to the large surface area of their feet.

Brown basilisk, Basiliscus vittatus, Costa Rica
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Iguania
Family: Corytophanidae
Genus: Basiliscus
Laurenti, 1768
Type species
Draco basiliscus
Linnaeus, 1758

Four, see text.

Taxonomy and etymology edit

Both the generic name, Basiliscus, and the common name, "basilisk", derive from the Greek basilískos (βασιλίσκος) meaning "little king". The specific epithet, vittatus, which is Latin for "striped", was given in Carl Linnæus' 10th edition of Systema Naturæ.[1]

Physiology edit

Basilisks on average measure 70 to 75 cm (28 to 30 in) in total length (including tail). Their growth is perpetual, fast when they are young and nonlinear for mature basilisks. Their skin is shed in pieces.[citation needed]

Running on water edit

Basilisks sometimes run bipedally. Basilisks have the ability to "run" on water, and because of this, they have been dubbed the "Jesus Christ lizard" in reference to the biblical passage of Matthew 14:22–34.[2] On water, basilisks can run at a velocity of 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) per second for approximately 4.5 meters (15 feet) before sinking on all fours and swimming.[citation needed] Flaps between their toes help support basilisks, creating a larger surface and pockets of air, giving them the buoyancy needed to run across water.[citation needed] They can also sustain themselves on all fours while "water-walking" to increase the distance travelled above the surface by about 1.3 meters (4.3 feet).[citation needed]

A similar behavior, running bipedally across water, is known from the sailfin lizards and a few species of anole lizards.[3][4]

Other defense mechanisms edit

Basilisks can burrow into sand to hide from predators; a ring of muscles around both nostrils prevents sand from entering the nose.[citation needed]

Habitat and geographic range edit

Basilisks are abundant in the tropical rain forests of Central and South America, from southern Mexico to Ecuador and Venezuela.[citation needed]


Invasive species edit

The species Basiliscus vittatus (brown basilisk) has been introduced to Florida.[5] It has adapted to the colder winters by burrowing into leaf litter for warmth.[citation needed] Current reports sight the brown basilisk as far north as Fort Pierce, on the state's East Coast, where small groups have crept up the North Fork of the Saint Lucie River.[citation needed] Mainly it has been seen in Boca Raton and other cities in Palm Beach County.[citation needed] as seen in this photo taken in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Classification edit

Genus Basiliscus[6]

Extant species edit

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
  Basiliscus basiliscus (Linnaeus, 1758) common basilisk from southwestern Nicaragua to northwestern Colombia on the Pacific side, and from central Panama to northwestern Venezuela
  Basiliscus galeritus A.M.C. Duméril & A.H.A. Duméril, 1851 western basilisk, red-headed basilisk western Colombia and western Ecuador
  Basiliscus plumifrons Cope, 1875[7] plumed basilisk, green basilisk, double crested basilisk eastern Honduras, through Nicaragua and Costa Rica, to western Panama
  Basiliscus vittatus Wiegmann, 1828 brown basilisk, striped basilisk Mexico, Central America and adjacent northwestern Colombia

References edit

  1. ^ Sprackland, Robert George (1992). Giant Lizards. Neptune, New Jersey: T.F.H. Publications. ISBN 0-86622-634-6.
  2. ^ How "Jesus Lizards" Walk on Water[dead link]. Retrieved on 2010-08-19.
  3. ^ Leal, Knox & Losos (2002). Lack of divergence in aquatic Anolis lizards. Evolution 56(4): 785–791. doi:10.1554/0014-3820(2002)056[0785:LOCIAA2.0.CO;2]
  4. ^ Bauer; Jackman (2008). "Global diversity of lizards in freshwater (Reptilia: Lacertilia)". Hydrobiologia. 595 (1): 581–586. doi:10.1007/s10750-007-9115-0. S2CID 46493725.
  5. ^ Powell R, Conant R, Collins JT (2016). Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Fourth Edition. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. xiv + 494 pp., 47 plates, 207 figures. ISBN 978-0-544-12997-9. (Basiliscus vittatus, p. 276 + Plate 24).
  6. ^ "Basiliscus ". The Reptile Database.
  7. ^ "Basiliscus plumifrons ". The Reptile Database.

External links edit

Further reading edit

  • Boulenger GA (1885). Catalogue of the Lizards in the British Museum (Natural History). Second Edition. Volume II. Iguanidæ ... London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and Francis, printers). xiii + 497 pp. + Plates I–XXIV. (Genus Basiliscus, pp. 106–107).
  • Laurenti JN (1768). Specimen medicum, exhibens synopsin reptilium emendatam cum experimentis circa venena et antidota reptilium austriacorum. Vienna: Joan. Thom. Nob. de Trattnern. 214 pp. + Plates I–V. (Basiliscus, new genus, p. 50). (in Latin).