A basilisk is not only a mythical creature
, but a fascinating living species
. The basilisks are lizard
s of the genus Basillicus
, and there are four species: vittatus, basilicus, galeritus
Perhaps the most well known of these species is the green basilisk (B. plumifrons), because it can be purchased in the herptile industry and kept as a pet, and is also the subject of a Clearnet cellular phone television commercial1.
These lizards can grow to be about three feet long (one metre), and are carnivorous with the large majority of their prey being invertebrates. They live near water in the wild, and are highly territorial.
These animals are interesting for two reasons. First, they are sexually dimorphic. Males have wonderful dorsal crests which can become quite pronounced. They often have the appearance of having a helmet and the crest of a dragon running along their spine. Even more fascinating, however, is their ability to walk on water, earning them the vulgar name: "The Jesus lizard." When frightened, this animal jumps into the nearest body of water and literally runs across the surface. It can do this because of its very large rear feet. When "walking on water", it spirals its legs around, and spreads its toes so that when the foot comes into contact with the water's surface, a pocket of air is trapped, thus providing positive lift.
1This commercial plays in Canada, and may do so in the United States. For our non-North American noders, the commercial consists of a green basilisk running back and forth across the screen on a white background while some cheesy music plays. Despite the fact that it isn't really all that fascinating as a concept, it does lull you into a kind of stupor, and is guaranteed to drive your cat nuts.