Corytophanidae – Casquehead lizards

Performing acrobatic miracles on the water

Formerly classified within the Iguanidae family, Corytophanidae now comprises nine species of small to medium-sized lizards, each boasting distinct features that set them apart. These lizards are known for their slender, laterally compressed bodies, long, thin tails, and elongated limbs, all contributing to their remarkable climbing abilities.

Distributed across tropical to dry forests in the New World, Corytophanids exhibit a range of adaptations suited to their diverse habitats. One notable feature of this family is the presence of well-formed head crests, which many species use in defensive displays to intimidate predators or assert dominance. Additionally, several species within the Corytophanidae family sport elaborate sails on their backs, heads, and tails, further enhancing their unique appearance.

Among the most iconic members of the Corytophanidae family are the lizards belonging to the Basiliscus genus, commonly known as Jesus Christ lizards. These remarkable creatures have earned their nickname due to their extraordinary ability to run across the surface of water on their hind legs, mimicking the biblical figure’s legendary walk on water. Basiliscus lizards can also evade predators by diving into the water from tree branches, utilizing their agile movements and aquatic prowess to escape danger.

Despite their relatively small size, Corytophanid lizards play important roles in their ecosystems as both predators and prey. Their agility and climbing skills enable them to hunt for insects and small vertebrates among the branches of trees, while their presence as prey supports the diets of larger predators in their habitats.