Tuatara (Sphenodon Punctatus) | Characteristics, Habitats & Amazing Facts

Name - Tuatara

Tuatara

Scientific Name : Sphenodon Punctatus

Type : Reptile

Age : 50 – 100 Years 

Diet : Carnivore 

 

Physical Characteristics:

Weight : 600g – 900g

Top Speed : 15mph

Colour : Green , Brown , Grey 

Skin Type : Scales 

Lifespan : 50 – 100 Years 

Current Population : Above 60000

Current Population Trend :

Native : New Zealand 

 

Facts

Main Pray : Insects , Eggs , Lizard 

Habitat : Woodland And Grassland

Predators : 1.3

Average Litter Size : 12

Lifestyle : Solitary 

Favorite Food : Insects 

Amazing Facts

1. The tuatara may look like a lizard, but it’s unique. The tuatara is not a lizard; it is the only living member of the order Rhynchocephalia, which flourished around 200 million years ago. All other members of the order became extinct 60 million years ago, in the late Cretaceous period.

2. The name “tuatara” comes from the Maori for “peaks on the back.” Tuataras have spiny crests along their backs made from soft, triangular folds of skin. These spines are more prominent in males, who can raise them during territorial or courtship displays.

3. They are surprisingly long-lived. Tuataras mature slowly and don’t stop growing until they reach about 30 years old. It is thought they can live up to 100 years in the wild. Part of the reason for their longevity may be their slow metabolism. Tuataras can tolerate much lower temperatures than most reptiles and they hibernate during the winter. The body temperature of tuataras can range from 41-52 °F over the course of a day, whereas most reptiles have body temperatures around 68 °F. This low body temperature results in a slower metabolism.

4. They have a third eye. The tuatara has a third eye on the top of its head called the parietal eye. This eye has a retina, lens, cornea, and nerve endings, but it is not used for vision. The parietal eye is only visible in hatchlings, as it becomes covered in scales and pigments after four to six months. Its function is a subject of ongoing research, but it is believed to be useful in absorbing ultraviolet rays and in setting circadian and seasonal cycles.

5. They can regrow lost tails. The tuatara can break off its tail when caught by a predator and regenerate it later.

6. They have unusual teeth that can’t be replaced. Tuataras have a single row of teeth on the lower jaw and a double row of teeth on the upper jaw, with the bottom row fitting between the two upper rows when the mouth is closed. It’s a tooth arrangement not seen in any other reptile. And unlike all other living toothed reptiles, the tuatara’s teeth are not separate structures but sharp projections of the jaw bone. This means that worn down or broken teeth cannot be replaced. Older tuataras with worn-down teeth have to switch from eating hard insects to softer prey such as earthworms, larvae, and slugs.

7. Tuataras reproduce slowly. They take 10-20 years to reach sexual maturity. Males can mate every year, but females breed every two to five years. It takes the female between one and three years to provide eggs with yolk, and up to seven months to form the shell. Then it takes an additional 12 to 15 months from copulation to hatching, possibly the longest incubation rate of any reptile.

A male tuatara named Henry, living at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, became a first-time father at the age of 111. He fathered 11 babies with a female named Mildred, believed to be in her seventies.

8. They’re diurnal when young, nocturnal as adults. Hatchling tuataras are believed to be active during the day to avoid the cannibalistic adult tuataras that come at out night.

9. They cohabitate with birds. Tuataras can dig their own burrows, but also use the burrows of seabirds for shelter when available. The seabirds’ guano provides an attractive environment for the invertebrates that tuataras prey upon, such as beetles, crickets, and spiders. Tuataras will also sometimes eat the eggs and young of the seabirds.

10. Tuataras’ worst enemies are rats. Tuataras once inhabited the New Zealand mainland as well as offshore islands. But when the first humans arrived from Polynesia, they brought rats and other animals that devoured tuatara eggs and hatchlings. The situation was so dire that the New Zealand government fully protected tuataras in 1895. Despite the protection, tuataras were extinct on the mainland and confined to around 30 offshore islands until the first mainland release of tuataras into a sanctuary in 2005. Three years later, a tuatara nest was uncovered, thought to be the first case of a tuatara successfully breeding on the New Zealand mainland in over 200 years. Along with captive breeding and release programs, attempts to eradicate rats from offshore islands have also met with success and allowed tuatara populations to rebound

Follow Us On Instagram – natureinfo.in

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.