WELLINGTON - Henry, a tuatara reptile said to be 111 years old and a relic of the dinosaur age, has become a father for the first time, a newspaper reported Monday.
Tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus) usually become sexually mature at the age of about 20, but Henry, who lives at the Southland Museum in Invercargill, was a slow developer and did not discover sex until March, when he had a romp with Mildred, who is in her 70s.
Nine eggs laid by Mildred in August hatched over the weekend, and Henry’s babies are running around and doing well, museum curator Lindsay Hazley told the Southland Times.
He said Henry did not have a clue that he had become a dad.
‘If he saw the babies and they came close, they would be lunch,’ he said.
Tuatara, which are native to New Zealand, are the last surviving members of the beak-headed reptile order known as Sphenodontia, which was prevalent during the age of the dinosaurs, 200 million years ago.
All species apart from the tuatara are believed to have become extinct about 60 million years ago.
The Department of Conservation estimates there are about 100,000 tuatara and has launched breeding programmes on predator-free offshore islands and in other sanctuaries.