■ BY MARCY SHORTUSE
On Sunday, Aug. 12 some local kids were treated to a rare sight as they golf-carted along looking for Pokemon. A small lizard was directly in their path, but it was unlike the anoles and iguanas they were used to. As they watched, it stood up on its hind legs and ran away.
Yes, that’s right … it’s hind legs.
This basilisk lizard, also known as a “Jesus” lizard, is the only one of its kind to be spotted on the island so far, but we will be watching closely to see if more start appearing.
According to iguana trapper George Cera, who takes care of the spiny-tailed iguana population on the island, it could be possible that this little juvenile male showed up via one of many different routes. He might have taken a ride on the back of a truck from across the state, where they are known to live. He might have been released by a tourist who picked him up somewhere else. He might have appeared from nowhere in his own personal TARDIS (OK, George didn’t say that last one). Either way, the Steyer kids photographed the little guy for our inspection.
The basilisk was first found in Florida in 1976 and has since been found in Broward, Dade, Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Hendry and Collier counties. Males may reach a size of about two feet long, and they have a prominent crest on their head. The older they get, the browner and grumpier they begin to look.
The reason for their nickname “Jesus Lizard” is the fact they can get up on their hind legs and literally run across small bodies of calm water.
These lizards are different from their opportunistic feeder cousins, the spiny-tailed iguanas, in that they are primarily insectivores, with a little grasshopper/scorpion/tiny fish protein thrown in.
We will continue to follow this story to see where it takes us, and whether Trapper George will have to take on another species in the near future.