The journal PLOS ONE provides details about the world’s first known Jesus lizard, which roamed in Wyoming 17 million years after the dinosaurs became extinct. Thanks to super speed and specially-designed feet, the basilisk lizard can run on water… an ability that makes it deadly to insects, and has led people to call it the “Jesus Christ Lizard” reported by National Geographic.
The journal provides clues on how Jesus lizard evolved and what their early habitats were like; these are ancestors of today’s lizards like iguanas and chameleons.
Scientists have given the new fossil the name Babibasiliscus alxi, Babi is a Shoshone Native American word which means ‘older male cousin’. The species was found in what is called Lucky Lizard Locality of Uinta County.
Author Jack Conrad of the American Museum of Natural History aid that name given to the lizard was meant to honor the Shoshone people who originally lived in those areas, and the name older male cousin is because of its relationship with other lizards.
At the time Wyoming has similar climates like today’s tropics and the lizard used to skim the surfaces of the watery habitats there.
Scientists believe that the lizard was very active during the day and spent a lot of time in trees; it was about 2 feet long. The angry look of the lizard is contributed to the ridge of bone on the skull, which provides shade for its eyes.
Conrad noted that each of its small teeth had three points suitable for eating snakes, lizards, fish, insects and plants.
The lizard’s large cheekbones suggest it would enjoy larger prey also.
Modern relatives of the Jesus lizard live in an area stretching from central Mexico to northern Colombia. They flourish in the higher temperatures found at the equator.
All such species are found in fossil records at mid-to-high latitudes from warm periods in our planet’s history.
By discovering such fossils we can tell how they see how they migrated as a result of climate change.
Jack Conrad goes on to say, “Given our current period of global climate fluctuation, looking to the fossil record offers an important opportunity to observe what is possible and may give us an idea of what to expect from our dynamic Earth.”