Plumed Basilisk, Jesus Christ Lizard
Basiliscus plumifrons


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Sauropsida
Order: Squamata
Family: Corytophanidae
Genus: Basilicus
Species: B. plumifrons

Range and Abundance
Basiliscus plumifrons can be found from Honduras to Panama. They are largely arboreal, living in and among trees and shrubs, and tend to stay fairly close to water sources, especially streams and rivers. They are moderately common in the humid lowlands

Coloration and Morphology
Juvenile B. plumifrons

Adult B. plumifrons males are green, often with white spots, with a lighter sometimes yellowish ventral side. Adult males have high crests on their head and along down the length of their torso and some of their tail
2. These crests or "sails" have light blue-green spots and vertical black stripes. Adult females are also green, but only have one small crest. Juveniles are brown/olive in color for their first few months, in which time their color gradually fades into green. Adults can grow up to 85 cm in length, including tail3 and weigh around 80 grams4. The tail can be up to 3 times as long as the body.

B. plumifrons are arboreal and can be found in dense forests in trees and shrubs. They often do not go very far from sources of water such as streams and rivers. Their home range is usually around 1800m2, but can be 3-4 times as large. B. plumifrons are not often observed in o
pen areas such as fields, near roads, or close to buildings to avoid predation. They are much more comfortable in a dense, shady forest or near water to elude predators

B. plumifrons are preyed upon by birds of prey, opossums, and snakes both terrestrial and aquatic
5. There is some evidence of basilisk lizards (Basiliscus basiliscus) engaging in opportunistic feeding behavior by waiting underneath trees where mantled howler monkeys were feeding. the howler monkeys were very wasteful eaters, dropping many fruits or not eating the whole fruit, in which case the lizard would eat the rest6.

B. plumifrons males are very territorial, and although their territories may overlap
1, males do not live in very close proximity with eachother. Males will share his territory with a group of around 2-3 females with whom he mates5. Individuals exhibit head bobbing as a way of communicating7. Most notably, these lizards are also known as Jesus Christ Lizards for their ability to run across water to elude predators. Even among their genus, B. plumifrons are particularly prone to run across water, and as a result they are more likely to be found near water than other lizards of the Basiliscus genus8.

Diet P3290186.JPG
B. plumifrons are foragers and consume vegetation, as well as various small vertebrates and invertebrates
1. Some invertebrates they are known to eat include roaches, grasshoppers, crickets, spiders, insect larvae, homopterans, ants, and other species. They feed both in trees when possible, by riverbanks in the mud and near logs, also anywhere they can forage for vegetation9.

My Experiences in Costa Rica
I saw B. plumifrons most often by the bridge on the edge of the trees and near the mud and occasionally on the sides of paths. I never saw them eating and whenever they realized that there were people around they became completely still, and when I got close enough they would just run into the undergrowth. Unfortunately I never got to see one actually run across the water because I never saw them on the actual riverbank. Although one of my sources said that they can be found on beaches, I never saw one at the beach either by our hotel in Cahuita or when we snorkeled (although those were more populated areas).

Vaughan, Christopher, Oscar Ramirez, Geovanny Herrera, Eunice Fallas, and Robert W. Henderson. "Home Range and Habitat Use of Basiliscus Plumifrons (Squamata: Corytophanidae) in an Active Costa Rican Cacao Farm." Applied Herpetology (2006): 1-10. Forest and Wildlife Ecology. University of Wisconsin, 29 Nov. 2006. Web. 19 Apr. 2010.
2. Hirth, Harold F. "Temperature Preferences of Five Species of Neotropical Lizards." Herpetologica 20.4 (1965): 273-76. JSTOR. Web. 19 Apr. 2010.
3. "Basiliscus Plumifrons." Plumifrons. 2005. Web. 22 Apr. 2010. <>.
4. Hsieh, S. Tonia. "Three-dimensional Hindlimb Kinematics of Water Running in the Plumed Basilisk Lizard (Basiliscus Plumifrons)." Jornal of Experimental Biology 206 (2003): 4363-377. The Company of Biologists Ltd, 18 Aug. 2003. Web. 19 Apr. 2010.
5. "Plumed Basilisk." Web. 22 Apr. 2010. <>.
6. Glander, Kenneth E. "Feeding Association Between Howling Monkeys and Basilisk Lizards." Biotropica 11.3 (1979): 235-36. JSTOR. Web. 21 Apr. 2010.
7. "Plumed Basilisk." Bristol Zoo Gardens. Web. 22 Apr. 2010. <>.
8. Laerm, Joshua. "A Functional Analysis of Morphological Variation and Differential Niche Utilization in Basilisk Lizards." Ecology 55.2 (1974): 404-11. JSTOR. Web. 21 Apr. 2010.
9. Vitt, Laurie J., and Peter A. Zani. "Prey Use Among Sympatric Lizard Species in Lowland Rain Forest of Nicaragua." Journal of Tropical Ecology 14.4 (1998): 537-59. JSTOR. Web. 21 Apr. 2010.