Basilisk lizards are the knight anole of the Anolis equestris. Native to Mexico, Central America, and Columbia. They have been introduced into Florida as a “feral” species through Cuba. They were originally discovered in the early 1950s on the old north campus of the University of Miami. Since then they have been found in 13 other parts of Florida.
Basilisks have large hind feet with flaps of skin between each toe. With their web-like feet, they move quickly across the water. This gives them an appearance of “walking on water.” In certain circles, it has been christened the “lagartija de Jesu Cristo,” Jesus Christ lizard.
The males top out at 24” in length with the females somewhat smaller. They have three crests on their head, along with the body and tail. You usually see them in brown or olive brown with black stripes, with white stripes from the eyes to their rear legs. The male crest is larger than the females. Due to their speed, they avoid predators but may lash its tail vigorously if caught.
The Basilisk feeds mostly on insects but are reported to sometimes feed on fall berries. There is concern about their diet. Fully-grown Basilisks can devour smaller lizards, like geckos and the native lizards. Those smaller lizards are responsible for keeping the insect population in check, i.e., crickets and mosquitoes.
The lifespan captivity is above five and a half years. The mischief they cause in South Florida is they kill smaller animals that are vital to the environment. Experts say they also cause problems for people by damaging plants, flowers and lawn ornaments.
Known to scratch and dent floors and walls, it is fiercely territorial and aggressive. The damage usually occurs when they are in panic mode and their color changes and often extends its dewlap, a reddish-white flap beneath its chin.
The Basilisks are considered a nuisance species because they create what is considered to be unacceptable ecological or economic damage.