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Photo: Green basilisk lizard running on water
Photograph by Joe McDonald/Animals Animals-Earth Scenes

The green basilisk lizard is also called a plumed or double-crested basilisk, but its amazing ability to run on water gives this species its most recognisable moniker: the Jesus Christ lizard.

Abundant in tropical rainforests from southern Mexico to Panama, green basilisks spend much of their time in the trees and are never far from water. When threatened, they can drop from a tree into water and sprint, upright, about 1.5 metres (5 feet) per second across the surface.

How do they do it? Firstly, basilisks have long toes on their rear feet with fringes of skin that unfurl in the water, increasing surface area. As they rapidly churn their legs, their splayed feet slap hard against the water, creating a tiny air pocket that keeps them from sinking (provided they maintain their speed). They can move along the surface like this for more than 4.5 metres (15 feet). When gravity eventually does win out, the basilisk resorts to its excellent swimming skills to continue its flight.

From National Geographic