Monday, December 22, 2008

All I Want For Christmas Is a Basilisk

I know what I want for Christmas. I saw it this weekend in San Francisco at the California Academy of Science. For a biologist, this place is like the world's biggest candy shop. Each section of the museum presents another area where I have vowed to spend at least two hours browsing once the huge volume of traffic has died down. In the wake of the renovation and reopening of the museum, weekend crowds have been huge. On our first visit we browsed through the aquarium on the bottom floor with crowds that would have made the British Museum at midsummer proud. The lines for the rain forest exhibit stretched at least 50 people back from its entrance and passes had already been claimed for all of the showings in the planetarium.

Steve had a game plan in place for this visit. We dragged ourselves from our beds at the hotel at 7:00, showered, consumed our breakfasts and by about 8:40, were waiting for the doors to open at the museum. At 9:00 we headed straight for the line to get passes for the first planetarium showing, then to the rain forest exhibit where a long line was already forming. Inside the rainforest exhibit were butterflies, birds, and terrariums with all manner of exotic fish and reptiles. And that's where I saw the emerald basilisk lizard.

A mere photo does not quite do this creature justice. Also known (somewhat irreverently) as the Jesus Christ lizard, the emerald basilisk is named for its ability to run on water.

Even a video doesn't fully capture the ruffled scales behind its ears that make the basilisk look like an utterly captivating combination between those exotic birds at the zoo that are forever cocking their head at you through the bars of their enclosure and a tiny green dog with perky ears. I don't actually want to take one of these beauties from, its natural habitat to live out its days in a terrarium, but I would love to get the chance to see one in the wild. Instead, I'll take one of these (a spider tortoise).

Thanks to Steve for the great photographs.


Anonymous said...

Wow ! Never mind walking on water!!

Meredith said...

SO......Did ya get one? Did ya get one?