August 6th, 2008
All species apart from the tuatara declined and eventually became extinct about 60 million years ago.
Henry the tuatara, a lizard-like creature of prehistoric origin is a rare 111-year-old New Zealand reptile with links to the age of the dinosaurs is to become a father for the first time in at least 38 years after regaining an interest in sex.
According to the curator Lindsay Hazley, Henry had grown fat and lazy after arriving at Southland Museum in the remote South Island city of Invercargill in 1970, he wasn’t interested in sex until a cancerous tumour was removed from his bottom.
Henry has now mated with Mildred, his 80-year-old companion, and 11 of her eggs are expected to hatch in six months.
The tuatara has been classified as an endangered species [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endangered_species] since 1895 (the second species, S. guntheri, was not recognised until 1989). Tuatara, like many of New Zealand’s native animals, are threatened by habitat loss and the introduced Polynesian Rat [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polynesian_Rat] (Rattus exulans). (source: Wikipedia)
Tuatara are greenish brown, and measure up to 80 cm (32 in) from head to tail-tip with a spiny crest along the back, especially pronounced in males. Their dentition, in which two rows of teeth in the upper jaw overlap one row on the lower jaw, is unique among living species. They are further unusual in having a pronounced parietal eye [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parietal_eye] , dubbed the “third eye”, whose current function is a subject of ongoing research. They are able to hear although no external ear is present, and have a number of unique features in their skeleton, some of them apparently evolutionarily retained from fish.Although tuatara are sometimes called living fossils [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_fossil] “, recent taxonomic and molecular work has shown that they have changed significantly since the Mesozoic [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesozoic] era. (source: Wikipedia)
Presently Tuatara are found only in New Zealand and are the only existing members of the Order Sphenodontia, which was represented by many species during the age of the dinosaurs some 200 million years ago, according to a government website. Link [news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7544749.stm]