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Pic of the Day: This lizard can run on water

August 23, 2019

The “Jurassic Park” books (and ostensibly the movies) were set in Costa Rica, and we can understand why.

On a hike near Drake Bay, we spotted this positively dinosaurian reptile sunning itself on a rock. It glared at us before scurrying into the forest.

This lizard is a common basilisk, but its behavior is anything but normal. Known as a “Jesus Christ lizard” or “Jesus lizard,” this species can literally run on water.

Costa Rica is also home to the green basilisk, as seen here at Cahuita National Park in Limón:

I spy with my little eye... Kristel Segeren / The Tico Times

We’ll let National Geographic take it from here:

Abundant in the tropical rain forests of Central America, from southern Mexico to Panama, green basilisks spend much of their time in the trees and are never far from a body of water. When threatened, they can drop from a tree into the water and sprint, upright, about 5 feet per second across the surface.

To accomplish this, they have long toes on their rear feet with fringes of skin that unfurl in the water, increasing surface area. As they rapidly churn their legs, they slap their splayed feet hard against the water, creating a tiny air pocket that keeps them from sinking, provided they maintain their speed. They can move along the surface like this for 15 feet or more. When gravity eventually does take over, the basilisk resorts to its excellent swimming skills to continue its flight.

 

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