Common Basilisk

(Basiliscus basiliscus)




Facts about this animal

The Basilisk reaches a total length of app. 80 cm (including the tail of app. 50 cm) and weighs app. 200 – 500 grs. The colour of the back ranges from green to olive-brown and brown with dark stripes. The belly is yellow. The outstanding camouflage allows them to remain undetected when they remain motionless in the undergrowth. Its toes are very long and have sharp claws. The head of the males is adorned with both a crest and a coloured dewlap. This crest is supported by elongations of the neural spines. On the back and the tail there are sail-like crests. Basilisks are active during the day. Males are territorial, bobbing their heads as threat gesture and courtship behavior. The female lays 2 – 18 eggs five to eight times per year into a hole, 20’ cm deep, she has dug out herself. After egg-laying, she covers the clutch with soil, pressing down on it with her head. Afterwards there is no parental care. The young hatch after about 3 months. They feed on insects, small vertebrates like snakes, birds and fishbut also flowers.

Did you know?
that along with the Brown basilisk, (Basiliscus vittatus) it has the nickname the "Jesus Christ Lizard" or "Jesus Lizard" because when fleeing from a predator, it gathers sufficient momentum to run on top of water for a brief distance (they can run up to seven miles per hour)? Basilisks have large hind feet. One side of the toes is enlarged by a row of larger scales. These are rolled up when the lizard walks on land; but if the basilisk senses danger and crosses water bodies, these scales are pushed up and thus the surface area on the water is enlarged, allowing it to run on water for short distances. Smaller basilisks can run about 10-20 metres on the water surface without sinking, and can usually run farther than older basilisks. Since the tail plays an important role for the balance when moving upright it cannot be discarded when the basilisk is attacked by a predator (birds of prey, snakes, other large reptiles, fish).


Name (Scientific) Basiliscus basiliscus
Name (English) Common Basilisk
Name (French) Basilique à bandes
Name (German) Helmbasilisk
Name (Spanish) Basilisco común
Local names Lagarto Jesucristo
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Esteban Alzate



Range Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador, Columbia
Habitat In rainforests near rivers and streams on trees, but also on the ground.
Wild population Unknown
Zoo population 3 reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

Common Basilisk


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 41 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Wolfram Riech

Why do zoos keep this animal

The common basilisk is not a currently threatened species. zoos keep it primarily for educational reasons as a relatively large and conspicuous representative of the lizards, because of its ability of biped walking and walking on water, reason why it has been dubbed “lagarto Jesucristo." and as an ambassador species for the conservation of neotropical forests. Basilisks are popular pets, and zoos may often come into position to accept abandoned or not properly kept specimens for animal welfare reasons.