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Tuatara

Sphenodon punctatus

Description:

The tuatara is a reptile endemic to New Zealand which, though it resembles most lizards, is actually part of a distinct lineage, order Sphenodontia.

Habitat:

This is Henry, he is housed at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery in Invercargill, New Zealand. He was 111 years old when I took these photos. He is part of their breeding program.

Notes:

Henry is believed to be the oldest Tuatara. The jaw bone was on display in the Tuatara viewing area at the Southland Museum. It shows how it is actually their jaw bone that is serrated, because Tuataras ancestors separated from other related species before the development of teeth. The tuatara has a third eye on the top of its head called the parietal eye. It has its own lens, cornea, retina with rod-like structures, and degenerated nerve connection to the brain, suggesting it evolved from a real eye. The parietal eye is only visible in hatchlings, which have a translucent patch at the top centre of the skull. After four to six months, it becomes covered with opaque scales and pigment. Its purpose is unknown

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32 Comments (1–25)

lori.tas
lori.tas 7 years ago

Ah yes, the parital eye. Thanks for reminding me, Tiz. I'll add that info to the notes section. If I remember correctly, it's also evident in some blind cave fish as well.

Indeed, Noah Citizen. He's currently 117. And now has dozens of offspring.

Noah Citizen
Noah Citizen 7 years ago

111 years old and still a young star! Long life to Henry!

Tiz
Tiz 7 years ago

Lovely to find the Tuatara here, had a speach about it in school :)
I still remember the third eye...
Info from wikipedia: "The tuatara has a third eye on the top of its head called the parietal eye. It has its own lens, cornea, retina with rod-like structures, and degenerated nerve connection to the brain, suggesting it evolved from a real eye. The parietal eye is only visible in hatchlings, which have a translucent patch at the top centre of the skull. After four to six months, it becomes covered with opaque scales and pigment. Its purpose is unknown"... A Magic animal!

Jolly Ibañez
Jolly Ibañez 7 years ago

Very educational lori.tas. Nice capture.

lori.tas
lori.tas 7 years ago

Thanks Phillip. He was the perfect subject, holding stock still.. I was so happy to hear a few years back that Henry was a father for the first time. Made the whole experience that more special. Maybe we'll meet again.

Nimbid Ditavi
Nimbid Ditavi 7 years ago

Magnificente Capture lori!

lori.tas
lori.tas 7 years ago

It's such an amazing endemic Jill. Not just unique amongst reptiles, but alone in its Order, which puts it in a similarly singular category as the Aardvark. Plus, it gives us a living link to a long gone evolutionary adaptation.

JillBlack
JillBlack 7 years ago

Wonderful photo of an endemic New Zealand species. Thanks for posting it.

lori.tas
lori.tas 7 years ago

Thanks Reza. He was a very accommodating critter. As far as I know he is still alive and well and living in the Invercargill Museum. It will be interesting to see how long he lives. As some tortoises have exceeded 200 years in age, it's entirely possible that he's only middle-aged.

Belated congratulation and this wonderful SotD !

lori.tas
lori.tas 8 years ago

That's a good point, Ava. The sex of lots of egg-laying reptiles depends on the temperature the eggs incubate. Many species will produce single sex clutches. Which will cause them to go rapidly extinct in the wild.

Ava T-B
Ava T-B 8 years ago

Global heating could wipe this little relative of the dinosaurs out by making all eggs turn male! Read this story for more information. http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2012/1...

lori.tas
lori.tas 8 years ago

Record Breaker. The Tuatara is the only member of the order Sphenodontia. A unique reptile species whose ancestors split with other saurians well before the emergence of lizards and snakes. Sometimes dubbed a "living fossil". Henry is the oldest known Tuatara and is currently 116 years old.

Hashen Itzam-na
Hashen Itzam-na 9 years ago

hermosa criatura,
una linea de la evolución, que des afortunadamente
esta a punto de perderse por la mano del hombre...

Ashish Nimkar
Ashish Nimkar 9 years ago

Oh... I do not know.. How I miss this fellow which had blue lips.. very marvelous creature..!!

lori.tas
lori.tas 9 years ago

No problem Emma. If you ever get to Invercargill, NZ, be sure to stop in and see him. I suspect he'll be there for many years to come.

Hema
Hema 9 years ago

Thanks for sharing Henry with us!

lori.tas
lori.tas 9 years ago

Henry is actually a few years older now, but in 2009, he became a father for the first time: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/...

JillyEnFuego
JillyEnFuego 9 years ago

He is awesome.

pesayo
pesayo 9 years ago

To paraphrase a wise old reptile looking Jedi, "When 111 years old you reach, look as good you will not, hmm."

ChandNair
ChandNair 9 years ago

wonderful looking 111 year old!

Super

SusanEllison
SusanEllison 9 years ago

great close up!!

Yasser
Yasser 9 years ago

Spotting of the Day!

"Meet Henry, the 111-year-old tuatara from New Zealand. Although tuatara resemble lizards, they're part of a distinct lineage, order Sphenodontia, that flourished around 200 million years ago!"

http://twitter.com/projectnoah/status/10...
http://www.facebook.com/projectnoah/post...

lori.tas
lori.tas 9 years ago

Thanks. He certainly wasn't going anywhere soon. They can take as few breaths as one per hour, and I'm pretty sure he never breathed while I was watching.

lori.tas
Spotted by
lori.tas

Southland, New Zealand

Spotted on Nov 22, 2007
Submitted on May 11, 2011

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Reference

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