Basiliscus vittatusBrown Basilisk

Geographic Range

Basiliscus vittatus is native to Latin America. It is found from Central Mexico southward to northern Colombia. Just recently it has been introduced to Florida. In Guatemala, this species is widespread, found practically anywhere where there is a water source (Campbell 1998).


This species can be found in tropical and subtropical wet, moist, and dry forests. It occurs in dense vegetation along the margin of practically any body of water. (Campbell, 1998)

Physical Description

Males may slightly exceed 2 feet in total length, whereas females are considerably smaller (Bartlett 1999). Adult males have a large flaplike crest that is supported by flexible cartilage and projects from the back of the head to the neck. They also have a crest that extends from above their shoulders to about the level of the hind legs (Campbell 1998). The females have a folded "hood" outlining the back of the head and a lower vertebral crest than the males (Bartlett 1999). The head is large and males have a more elongate snout than the females. The tails and limbs are long and slender, the toes have a distinctive series of scales that form a fringe on each side, and the tail is laterally compressed (Campbell 1998). This is an unmistakable, gangly, brown lizard. Basilisks can both hop and run swiftly. They are able to run over still water when they are startled. Both males and females are dark-barred dorsally and have variably distinct yellowish dorsolateral lines. The lips and venter are light. Young specimens are particularly prominently patterned (Bartlett 1999). (Bartlett, 1999; Campbell, 1998)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • sexes shaped differently
  • ornamentation
  • Range length
    60 (high) cm
    23.62 (high) in


Sexual maturity is reached at about 9 to 10 cm. at less than a year of age, and during the wet season it has been estimated that hatchlings may reach sexual maturity in as little as three months (Campbell 1998). Females lay 3 to 12 eggs from May to August in a secluded moisture retaining nesting site, usually a hole along a canal bank. The young hatch during the early part of the rainy season from June to September in about 55 to 65 days. (Bartlett, 1999; Campbell, 1998)

  • Breeding interval
    Striped basilisks breed once yearly.
  • Range number of offspring
    3 to 12
  • Range gestation period
    55 to 65 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 to 12 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3 to 12 months

Females choose a safe nest site for their eggs. After laying the eggs there is no further parental care.



This lizard is quite arboreal, and can be seen in bushes and the lower branches of trees or thickets, but also spends time on the ground (Campbell 1998). At night it can be found sleeping in vine-covered thickets or in the open on low bushes (Campbell 1998). This is an alert, agile, speed-demon of a lizard (Bartlett 1999). They are difficult to approach. Basilisks are capable of climbing, running, and swimming, all with equal facility. Adult males are particularly wary and may often be heard crashing to safety through the underbrush (Bartlett 1999). (Bartlett, 1999; Campbell, 1998)

Food Habits

Striped basilisks feed mostly on insects but are reported to sometimes feed on fallen berries (Campbell 1998). (Campbell, 1998)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit


The brown basilisk relies mainly on alertness and speed to avoid predators, but may lash its tail vigorously if caught.

Other Comments

Because of this lizards ability to run across water in short distances, in certain circles it has been christened the "lagartija de Jesu Cristo," Jesus Christ lizard (Campbell 1998).


Alissa Wentz (author), Michigan State University, James Harding (editor), Michigan State University.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.


an animal that mainly eats meat

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

sexual ornamentation

one of the sexes (usually males) has special physical structures used in courting the other sex or fighting the same sex. For example: antlers, elongated tails, special spurs.


lives alone


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


Bartlett, R. 1999. A Field Guide to Florida Reptiles and Amphibians. FLorida: Gulf Publishing Company.

Campbell, J. 1998. Amphibians and Reptiles of Northern Guatemala, the Yucatan, and Belize. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.