Basilisk Lizard (Basiliscus basiliscus) on Barro Colorado Island in Panama. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.
The basilisk lizard walks on water. To escape danger the lizard will race across a stream, sprinting, literally, off the water’s surface.
But despite its nickname of ‘Jesus Christ lizard’ this is not a miracle, but adaptation. The basilisk lizard has seams around its toes that expand when it runs on water creating a large surface area. The downward pressure from its foot pushes water away, creating a momentary air pocket around the foot, which allows the lizard to move without sinking. The basilisk cannot do this indefinitely, but for about 10 or 20 meters.
Found in Central and South America, the basilisk lizard has not been evaluated by the IUCN Red List to determine whether or not it is endangered. Only 32 percent of the world’s known reptiles have been assessed thus far.