The Green Basilisk is the largest of the basilisk lizards, known for their ability to run on water just like their close cousin the common basilisk, earning them the nickname “Jesus Christ” lizard. Other names for this species include the plumed basilisk and the double-crested basilisk owing to the crests on their heads.
Swedish zoologist Carl Linnaeus named the species in the 10th edition of his book Systema Naturae. It gets its generic name, Basiliscus, from the famous reptilian creature of Greek mythology Basilisk, who could transform humans to stone just by gazing at them.
Size: Length: 10 inches (25 cm) from snout to vent; Weight: 7oz (198.5g)
Head: They have a triangular head with large ear openings and round eyes with yellow irises.
Tail: It has a long, whip-like tail, 25 in (66 cm) in length, either unmarked or striped with black bands.
Body and coloration: They display sexual dimorphism regarding physical features, mainly the characteristic crests on their head and body.
The males have four crests on their bodies, a small one behind their eyes and three others on their head, tail, and back. The female lizards, on the other hand, have just one crest on their head. Both sexes have granular scales and long hind limbs exceeding the length of their forelimbs.
It is bright green, covered with gray, blue, and white markings on their bodies. Some of them have black dorsal markings as well. Its underbelly is a lighter shade of green.
The juveniles have a less prominent coloration, lacking the crests.
These lizards occupy Central America, including Honduras, western Panama, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.
They inhabit tropical rainforests and wetlands, living close to water sources.
Omnivorous in nature, they eat fruits, flowers, seeds, leaves, insects, spiders, small rodents, lizards, fish and birds, some non-venomous snakes, shrimp, crayfish, and amphibians.
The green basilisk lives for about 5- 6 years in the wild and 8-10 years in captivity.
The male basilisks are highly territorial, avoiding other males in the wild. Groups of single males and many females are common.
They mostly thrive on trees but at the same time choose their habitat close to a water source so that they can jump into the water the moment they sense danger.
These lizards are fast runners, pacing at a speed of 7mph on land using their hind legs if frightened or threatened.
When running on water, it will eventually tire out, losing its pace and swimming the rest of the way.
Like most basilisks, they too remain submerged in water for just 10 minutes or even as long as an hour.
These lizards are preyed upon by possums, coati, snakes, and some birds of prey.
Like other basilisk lizards, the green basilisk can run across water with the help of its long-toed back legs, fringed skin, and specialized scales on its feet. While doing so, its feet slap the surface creating an air pocket that prevents them from sinking.
Mating and Reproduction
A male basilisk will mate with several females who live in its territory. Fully-grown females can lay 4-5 clusters of eggs throughout the breeding season. The number of clusters depends on the mother’s health, age, and size. Once breeding is complete and the female becomes pregnant, she will become plump in about two weeks.
After three weeks of pregnancy, the mother will search for a suitable site and dig a burrow to lay her eggs. She will then enter it and lay between 5-17 eggs. Once she is done, she covers the burrow with substrate and leaves. It takes 8-10 weeks for the eggs to hatch, after which the newborn lizards emerge, fully independent. They reach sexual maturity at around 18-24 months.
The IUCN lists the Green Basilisk as “LC” or “Least Concern”.
These beautiful reptiles are an interesting choice for pets, but not apt as their territorial nature extends to showing dissatisfaction when handled by their owners.