Green Basilisk Fact File
The green basilisk has a body which is covered with small, green scales. On the back these are bright green and on the underside they are lighter in color. Across the body are white, gray or light blue markings.
At the end of the body is a long tail which may be unmarked or have black bands.
Another name for this species is the green crested basilisk. This is a reference to the three crests which can be found along the body of males. These are located on top of the head, along the back and on the tail. The crests on the back and tail aid them with swimming. Females only have a small crest on their head and tail.
They have a triangular head. This features circular eyes which appear gold with a round black pupil.
Their body averages 60-75cm (23.5-30in) long with a weight of 198.5g (7oz).
The green basilisk is an omnivore. Their diet includes seeds, fruits, leaves, crawfish, insects and small animals.
Central America is the native home of the green basilisk. Here they can be found in Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.
They make their home in forests and wetlands prefer areas which are near water.
Males maintain a territory which they will aggressively defend against other males. Within this area he will allow a number of females to live.
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Males with a larger crest will have more success when attempting to attract a mate.
During the breeding season the female will dig a shallow hole in to which she deposits up to 20 eggs.
These hatch and the young are independent from day one. They have the ability to climb, run and swim from day one.
They are considered arboreal with much of their day being spent in the trees.
Their nickname of Jesus Christ lizard comes from their ability to run across the water’s surface. When threatened they will drop from a tree and run across the water. They can reach speeds up to 7 feet per second. This high speed coupled with special scales on their feet prevent them breaking the surface tension and mean they can run on water.
Another adaptation to assist this is fringes of skin which unfurl in the water and help prevent them from breaking the surface tension.
While running they hold their tail up which helps to counterbalance them.
Once they do break the surface tension they are capable swimmers and they can remain submerged for up to ten minutes.
Predators and Threats
Humans affect their population through habitat destruction. Small numbers may be collected for the pet trade.
They are also known as the plumed lizard or the Jesus lizard, due to their ability to ‘walk’ on water.
Their name comes from the mythical beast the basilisk which was said to be half rooster and half lizard.
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Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK
National Geographic. 2020. Green Basilisk Lizard. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/g/green-basilisk-lizard/> [Accessed 12 November 2020].
American Museum of Natural History. 2020. Green Basilisk | AMNH. [online] Available at: <https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/lizards-and-snakes-alive/sight-hounds/a-world-of-sights/green-basilisk> [Accessed 12 November 2020].
The Buttonwood Park Zoo. 2020. Green Basilisk | The Buttonwood Park Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.bpzoo.org/animals/reptiles/green-basilisk/> [Accessed 12 November 2020].
Wilson, L.D., Townsend, J.H. & Lamar, W. 2013. Basiliscus plumifrons. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T203046A2759302. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-2.RLTS.T203046A2759302.en. Downloaded on 12 November 2020.
Virginia Zoo in Norfolk. 2020. Not Your Typical Basilisk – Virginia Zoo In Norfolk. [online] Available at: <https://virginiazoo.org/2019/11/not-your-typical-basilisk/> [Accessed 12 November 2020].