The Brown Basilisk in South Florida, 11 June 2017

Basiliscus vittatus, the Brown basilisk;
Miami-Dade county, Florida (11 June 2016).

Native to Central America and the northern reaches of South America, the Brown basilisk, Basiliscus vittatus, is an impressively agile and speedy non-native lizard slowly spreading its way across south Florida. Adults range between one and two feet in length, but, despite their size, Brown basilisks are fairly stealthy. They’ll take a position, often near water, and sit motionless — sometimes seeming to hide in plain sight. And then? Once they’ve been seen? BAM! They take off with more than a little acceleration and velocity. In fact, with thanks to its webbed, enlarged rear feet, the Brown basilisk can even “run on water” for short distances. Some people thus call them it the “Jesus Lizard.”

In south Florida, you can find Brown basilisks fairly easily. If you’re anywhere on the east coast between West Palm Beach and Homestead, just head to the urban canal lines. There’s a decent chance you’ll find some basilisks basking adjacent to the canals and then quickly running away.

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