photo M. Noonan

 Among the most abundant reptiles in the rainforest are the basilisk lizards.  These  alert, agile, speed-demon lizards are quite difficult to approach.  Basilisks are true all-terrain animals capable of climbing, running, and swimming with equal facility.  They are even able to run over still water when they are startled; running on their hind legs and holding the body almost upright while using the tail as a counterweight.  The outer edges of the toes also have long, fringe-like scales that help it to run on water.  Because of this ability to run across water, in certain circles the basilisk has been christened the "lagartija de Jesu Cristo," or Jesus Christ lizard.

photos M. Noonan

Iguanas are another reptile commonly encountered in the American tropics.  These animals spend most of their lives on the forest floor, foraging for various plants and occasionally insects as well.  In the wild, iguanas tend to live in colonies where males vie for territory and females.  When a male iguana defends his territory, he may do "push ups" or head nods to intimidate other males!

Endangered American crocodiles exist in precariously low numbers in Central America.  Their habitat consists of tropical wetlands.   The American crocodile is distinguished by its narrow, V-shaped snout and distinctive underbite.  It also has specialized salt glands on its tongue to excrete excess salt from its brackish environment.  The American crocodile is nocturnal and feeds primarily at night on a variety of fish, amphibians, reptiles and water birds.  In addition, the crocodile is considered to be a good mother.  Females of this species lay as many as 40 eggs in a dirt mound nest. The female then guards the nest, assists the young in hatching, and may guard hatchlings during their early days of life.

photos M. Noonan

CAC is a program of the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.