Weird Animals - the Green Basilisk Lizard
If you read my Weird Animals articles, then you already know there are some very weird, very strange animals in our wonderful world. But this little emerald green lizard has to be one of the strangest. Let me explain:
I was spending the day in the beautiful, though very humid, tropical rain forest of Costa Rica. A movement on a nearby stream caught my eye. It looked like some small green animal was darting across the surface of the water. Not swimming, not flying, NOT sinking – but skimming somehow across the top of the water.
The natives call this iguana-lookalike the ‘Jesus Christ Lizard.’ Now I was really intrigued. Here was a chance to use my supernatural interviewing skills to learn the lizard’s secret. Carefully, I approached this unusual creature.
me – Buenas dias, good morning. Would you have a few minutes for an interview?
Creature – What’s an interview?
me – I would like to ask you a few questions and publish your answers for my readers, Señor …?
Creature – My family name is Basiliscus Plumifrons but you can call me Basil.
Interview with Green Basilisk Lizard
me – Thank you, Basil. I’m delighted to meet you. I would like to learn more about you and your miraculous ‘walking on water’ skills.
Basil – No problema.
me – I know you are called a green basilisk lizard. How did you get that name?
Basil – It is derived from the Greek word, ‘basiliskos’ and means little king.
me – It seems you understand both English and Spanish. Do you also speak Greek?
Basil – Not really – I use Google Translate. (laughs playfully)
me – Getting back to the meaning of your name, why ‘little king’?
Basil – See the crest on my head and back. It looks like a king’s crown. Ergo, my name – basilisk – little king. Only guy basilisks have this unique crest. We use it to impress the ladies.
Speaking of ladies, we are unusually happy campers since the ratio of males to females is one male for every two or three females.
me – Where else besides Central America will I find ‘little king’ lizards like you?
Basil – We also live in the tropical rain forests of southern Mexico and northern South America. And recently some of us settled on the east coast of Florida and reside as far north as Fort Pierce.
me – That’s surprising since the winters in north Florida are much cooler than the tropics.
Basil – No problema. We wear tiny little scuba wet suits. Just kidding. We have adapted to the cooler winters by burrowing into leaf litter on the ground for warmth.
We can also burrow into sand for warmth or to hide from predators. Like possums or tourists. (chuckles)
me – When you burrow, how do you keep the sand from getting in your nose?
Basil – I could say I hold my nose. But the truth is, a ring of muscles around both my nostrils prevents sand from entering my nose.
me – Do you have a favorite food?
Basil – Pizza! Just joking. We basilisks are omnivores eating a variety of plants, fruit and flowers as well as insects, and small vertebrates like snakes, birds and fish. Any fat we do not use from a meal is stored in our long whip-like tail for later use.
Speaking of diet, predators like large snakes and birds, particularly quetzals, are fond of adding us to their diet. The quetzal, you know, was very sacred to the ancient Maya and Aztec peoples. Members of royalty and priests wore its stunning feathers during ceremonial rituals.
Can you find Basil's girlfriend in this photo?
me – You resemble the iguana. Are you related?
Basil – Si, we are related to the iguana family but spend much of our time in the trees and are never far from a body of water. We grow to a length of about two and a half feet not including our long narrow tail which can be twice as long as our body.
You must have noticed my handsome emerald green color. But some of my basilisk relatives are plain brown and some have reddish heads. Lady basilisks are less colorful.
me – Speaking of lady basilisks, do pregnant females build nests for their young?
Basil – No, mama basilisks only have to prepare a shallow trench where they will lay up to twenty eggs. Then the mother’s work is done. She leaves the eggs to hatch on their own in eight to ten weeks.
Here is the amazing part. The baby hatchlings, only three inches long and weighing two to three grams, are born with the ability to run (on both land and water), climb trees and swim. They can survive without being raised by an adult.
Jesus Christ Lizard
me – What is the reason for that unusual nickname?
Basil – We basilisk lizards avoid danger by darting across the surface of water. If we are threatened – or hungry – we drop from the tree we are in and fall into the pond or stream usually below. Then we can sprint upright at five feet per second across the water for up to fifteen feet WITHOUT sinking.
me – So that’s where the nickname came from – you can walk on water! That’s unbelievable! How are you able to do that?
Basil – We tie little pontoons to our feet. (laughs hysterically)
me – Be serious, Basil. This skill is amazing.
Basil – Es verdad (that’s true)! Let me explain. First, we have specially designed feet that keep us from sinking. The long toes on our rear feet have fringes of skin that unfurl in the water, increasing the surface area.
Second, we have a unique running style since we slap our splayed feet hard against the water as we churn our legs rapidly. This creates a tiny air pocket that keeps us from sinking, as long as we maintain our speed.
Watch Basil run!
Watch Basil run for his dinner.
As we skim across the water, we stomp down hard with our legs like pistons – first one leg, then the other. We look like drunken sailors – apologies to anyone of a naval persuasion – as we stagger from one side to the other using our tail to balance.
me – What if gravity takes over before you reach the other shore?
Basil – We are excellent swimmers and can swim on the surface of the water to shore, or dive under if threatened. We have another skill, too. We can hold our breath under water for up to 30 minutes. (proudly)
me – You ARE a remarkable creature. The U.S. Navy could use Navy Seals with your talents.
Basil – Thanks for the sensational compliment.
me – My pleasure. Thank you for your time and muchas gracias for the interview. Hasta la vista.
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© Copyright BJ Rakow, Ph.D. 2013. All rights reserved. Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So." Learn to write a dynamic resume and cover letter, network effectively, interview confidently, and negotiate salary.
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