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.