It’s hard enough to believe a lizard can walk on water, but you also need to imagine it happening when the badlands of the American west were a tropical rain forest.

A newly discovered lizard fossil has shown scientists as much about the changing climate of Wyoming as it has about a unique family of “Jesus lizards.”

They get their name because the lizards can walk — or more accurately, run — on water at six miles per hour for as far as 15 feet. There are nine living species, like the one pictured above, and most live in the tropics.NaotoMatsumuraWithDogsInNuclearZone_FBphotoNaotoMatsumura

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basilisk lizard-runs-on-water-Nat-Geo-YoutubeJack Conrad from the American Museum of Natural History says the fossil tells researchers as much, if not more, about the climate as it does about the corytophanid lizards, also known by the common genus name of basilisk. He published his findings this week in the journal PLOS ONE.

Scientists thought running on water was a relatively new skill, but the fossil shows that lizards were doing it 48 million years ago. It also suggests that while the animals they were running around Wyoming, the now-arid badlands of the west were more like the rain forests of Southeast Asia.

(WATCH the National Geographic video and READ more at CBS News) — Photo by Benjamint444, CC

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