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A hydrodynamic model of locomotion in the Basilisk Lizard


ORGANISMS with a body mass of more than one gram and which live at the air–water interface generally support their weight with their buoyant bodies. The maximum swimming speed these animals can attain is limited by wave-making resistance1–3. For high-speed progression across a body of water, shore birds and basilisk lizards (Basiliscus basiliscus) support their bodies above the water surface by repeatedly striking the surface with their feet. Here we investigate the mechanism of support in moderately sized basilisk lizards (about 90 g) by combining hydrodynamic measurements of a physical model of the lizards' feet with an analysis of video records of foot movements. We find basilisks of intermediate size obtain little support for their body weight by slapping the water surface; most of the support comes from stroking the foot downwards while expanding an air cavity underwater. The lizard minimizes downward forces by pulling its foot upward before the cavity collapses.

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Glasheen, J., McMahon, T. A hydrodynamic model of locomotion in the Basilisk Lizard. Nature 380, 340–342 (1996).

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