Chewing isn’t just for mammals

Read more about 8 Weird Creatures That Keep Science Secrets on our latest BBSRC BuzzFeed post.

The New Zealand tuatara chews its food in a way unlike any animal on the planet.

Now scientists from UCL and the University of Hull have uncovered how the tuatara uses its jaw to tear food apart like a “steak knife”. While most reptiles swallow or bite their food, the tuatara has highly specialised jaws to saw food apart, allowing it to eat food much bigger than its mouth.

“The slicing jaws of the tuatara allow it to eat a wide range of prey including beetles, spiders, crickets and small lizards. There are also several grizzly reports of sea birds being found decapitated following predation by tuatara.”

“Although the tuatara-like chewing mechanism is rare today, fossils from Europe to Mexico show us that during the time of the dinosaurs (about 160 million years ago) some fossil relatives of the tuatara used a similar system and it was much more widespread.” - Dr Marc Jones, Lead researcher, formerly UCL