sphenodon punctatus

shinkei-shinto  asked:

Can you do Turrataras? I knew about them once long ago as a kid but I would love to hear about them ! * v*

Ahh, the mighty, majestic Tuatara! There’s actually two extant species in this genus- Sphenodon punctatus and guntheri. Tuataras aren’t lizards, but they look like them; back when there were more sphenodont species, they filled many of the niches that lizards do now. They are endemic to New Zealand and don’t live anywhere else in the world. 

One incredibly interesting thing about tuataras is just how long-lived they can be. This fellow is Henry. He was 116 at the time this picture was taken.

They can maintain fertility that long, too; Henry became a first-time father at the age of 111. His mate was in her 70s. Tuataras have an incredibly slow metabolism and the longest gestation time of any reptile; females can only breed every two to five years, and they incubate the eggs for twelve to fifteen months. Tuataras’ greatest threat isn’t habitat loss but rather is rats; they have such a slow replacement rate that egg loss to rats (which aren’t native to New Zealand) is devastating. They have been a protected species since 1895, which is much longer than most protected species have been protected. Nowadays they are doing quite well for themselves. 

Other interesting facts about the tuatara: their vertebrae are unlike any other amniote. They have hourglass-shaped vertebrae, like a fish!

They have a third eye- a parietal eye- on top of their head. It’s incredibly well-developed, with a lens, a retina, rod-like structures, a cornea, and a nerve… all of which suggest it developed from an actual eye. Beardies, iguanas, and other lizards will have these as well, but not anywhere near as well-developed as the tuatara’s. You can really only see it when they’re young; it’s the black dot on this baby’s forehead.

Tuataras are truly magical creatures. It’s really heartening how much New Zealand loves them and cares for them.

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

Hatchling tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus) bred at Chester Zoo (photo courtesy of the media team), AKA baby Isolde! It has taken decades of work to reach this point; outside its native New Zealand the tuatara has never been bred in captivity before this youngster emerged. It’s named for specialist herpetology keeper Isolde McGeorge, whose 38 year career at the zoo led to the successful mating and hatching.


The tuatara is genus of reptiles found only in New Zealand. The genus contains only two living species - the Brothers Island tuatara (Sphenodon guntheri) and the Northern tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus). When the tuatara was first scientifically classified in 1831 they were assumed to be lizards. In 1867 the order Rhynchocephalia (meaning “beak head”, in reference to the distinctive skull structure) was created by Albert Günther of the British Museum, for the tuatara and its fossil relatives.

The tuatara is often referred to as a living fossil due to several primitive features that they still have, though they have changed significantly since the  Mesozoic era.

The brain structure and manner in which tuatara move is more similar of amphibians than reptiles, whilst their heart has the most primitive structure of any reptile and their lungs have only a single chamber and lack bronchi.

The skulls of tuataras also shows their age - it is simple in build with two openings (temporal fenestra) on each side of the skull, with complete arches, and the upper jaw is firmly attached to the skull. This makes for a very rigid, inflexible construction.

The tip of the upper jaw is beak-like and separated from the remainder of the jaw by a notch. There is a single row of teeth in the lower jaw and a double row in the upper, with the bottom row fitting perfectly between the two upper rows when the mouth is closed. This specific tooth arrangement is not seen in any other reptile. The jaws chew with backwards and forwards movements combined with a shearing up and down action. As their teeth wear down, older tuatara have to switch to softer prey such as earthworms, larvae, and slugs, and eventually have to chew their food between smooth jaw bones.

These are just some of the physical features which differentiate tuataras from squamata (lizards and snakes). If you wish to read more just check out the wikipedia page on these amazing animals [x]


Tuatara weather, Zealandia Ecosanctuary

Yesterday was very warm, but not sunny - just what the tuatara like. We counted eight of them, basking on the scrapes in front of their burrows. The main path into the sanctuary runs alongside the bank where they live, behind a sturdy fence that keeps them safe but allows people to see them up quite close. There are steps for little folk to climb up for a better view of the most frequented areas.
The top photo is of a wee fellow (the yellow leaf was about an inch and a half long) while the lower one would have been about 15 inches, perhaps a bit longer.

Particularly for @sebohannon

(photo: wandering tattler)

“Spotted” Tuatara, Sphenodon punctatus

At first glance, this reptile may seem like any ordinary lizard. Except that it isn’t even in the same order as lizards. Tuataras are not squamates, but actually have their own order in which they are the only living genus. They have been referred to as “living fossils” due to their being considered the most unspecialized amniote alive. They haven’t evolved much over the last 200-million years, but don’t fix what isn’t broken, we suppose. With a lifespan of up to 100+ years (while remaining sexually active), these 2-foot (61 cm) critters seem to have it all figured out.

Tuataras have an interesting addition to their seemingly drab composition: a third “eye.” Located on the top of the head, their parietal eye cannot actually be used for seeing, but may help to determine light cycles and absorb UV light.