Weird Wildlife Wednesday: A Basilisk Called Jesus
I was way too excited when I found out that the basilisk was a real animal. I was sorted into Slytherin on Pottermore which pretty much entitles me to have one as a pet. I then got less excited when I saw that they were small, not venomous, and won’t kill people on sight. They do have a redeeming factors though, they can run on water, which I guess is badass enough.
Another name for the basilisk is the Jesus Christ lizard, for the biblical passage where Jesus walks on water. When frightened, this lizard drops from its home in the trees into the water and runs across on it on its back legs. Though these little guys are tiny, (.01-7 ounces) they can run across water at a rate of 1.5 meters per second for 4.5 meters before they sink and start swimming with all fours.
Running on water is pretty complicated, the basilisk has to hold itself upright and above the water as it propells itself forward. Each footfall has three components, a slap, a stroke, and a recovery. The slap occurs when the foot hits and enters the water with a pocket of air below. The stroke pushes the water away (much like a swimming stroke) to create forward motion and the recovery returns the foot to the original state. The motion of both feet also include a lateral pressure back to the center to prevent the lizard from falling sideways.
Obviously a bunch of nerds at Carnegie Mellon had to try to make one. They wrote a paper on it and tried to build one. (The paper has great freeze frame shots of the basilisk running that I did not get permission to repost) While they couldn’t quite get it to work, the article is an interesting insight into the process of trying really hard to build a robot.
I’ll leave you with this: Matthew 14:22-33 is way funnier if you imagine Jesus running like a basilisk.
Additional Source: National Geographic News