The Lizard that Walks on Water

In Central America, there is a lizard called the basilisk lizard that actually runs across the top of water. Weighing nearly a fourth of a pound, these lizards escape their enemies or just get from one point to another by running with their back legs in the water and their body angled to the water.

The physics of running on water is remarkable. The lizard starts its journey across the top of the water by slapping the water with its hind foot. The foot has a fringe on it that flares out as the foot is pushed down, creating a large surface area that pushes down on the water. As the foot pushes down into the water, it creates a hole in the water so water pushes up on the lizard's foot. Measurements have shown that this motion produces from 110-225 % of the force needed to support the lizard's weight.

All this would be lost, however, if the lizard did not pull its foot out of the hole created when it pushed its foot down into the water. To pull the foot out of the water requires the animal to overcome adhesion between the water and the lizard's foot. Its foot can be collapsed and slanted. Once the animal has made its push downward, the toes on the foot are pulled together and the entire foot is pulled upward. That means the foot is surrounded only by air as the animal quickly pulls its foot out of the hole. For a human to do what the basilisk lizard does, they would have to run 65 miles an hour and expend 15 times more energy that a human is able to expend.

The design of the foot and leg structures of the lizard to accomplish the remarkable feat of running on water is an engineering marvel. A master intelligence has produced a technique that man has only recently understood. How this knowledge will be used remains to be seen because the lizard takes 20 steps a second; translating that to a boat or similar device seems to be beyond man's ability at this time. It may be, however, that--like in a lot of things--mankind may copy God's design and use this new information to improve our ability to move on water.

--Reference: Scientific American, September, 1997, page 68

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