Tuatara Facts

Tuatara Facts
Tuatara is a lizard-like reptile that belongs to the group of beak-headed reptiles. All members of this group, except two species of tuatara, went extinct 60 million years ago. Tuataras were numerous on the New Zealand until the introduction of Polynesian rats which feed on tuatara eggs. Today, tuatara can be found only on the forested and shrubby coastal areas of the 32 islands around New Zealand. Even though number of tuataras in the wild is still high, these animals classified as vulnerable due to habitat loss and climate changes.
Interesting Tuatara Facts:
Tuatara can reach 18 to 24 inches in length and 1.1 to 2.2 pounds of weight. Males are larger than females.
Tuatara is greenish brown or grey colored, depending on the habitat.
Tuatara has crest made of triangular folds of skin on a dorsal side of the body. Crest is especially prominent in males which use it to attract females during the breeding season and to intimidate competitors.
Tuatara has double row of teeth in the upper jaw and single row of teeth in the lower jaw. Single row of teeth fits the space between the teeth in the upper jaw when the mouth is closed. Since worn out teeth are not replaceable, tuatara switches to soft food later in life.
Tuatara has third eye (called parietal eye) that is visible on top of the head of hatchlings. After 4 to 6 months, this structure becomes covered with scales. Third eye contains elements of regular eye such as retina, cornea and nerve endings. Tuatara probably uses it to detect daily changes in light and seasonal changes.
Tuataras are cannibals (they eat members of their own species). Young tuataras are diurnal (active during the day) to avoid adult animals which are active during the night (nocturnal).
Tuataras bask in the sun during the day to increase body temperature. Unlike other reptiles, tuataras prefer cold weather.
Tuataras are carnivores. They eat beetles, crickets, spiders, frogs, lizards, eggs and birds.
Tuataras dig their own burrows or use burrows of sea birds. Guano (feces) produced by sea birds attract insects and other invertebrates that are main source of food of tuataras.
Main predators of tuataras are foxes, cats, dogs and stouts.
Tuataras hibernate during the winter to avoid low temperatures and lack of food.
Mating season of tuataras takes place during the summer.
Males mate every year while females mate every 3 to 4 years. Female lays 1 to 19 soft, leathery eggs, 8 to 9 months after copulation. Eggs hatch after 12 to 15 months (the longest period of incubation in the world of reptiles).
Hatchlings are left on their own from the moment of birth. Tuataras reach sexual maturity at the age of 15 to 20 years, but they can reproduce even at the age of 100 years.
Tuatara can survive more than 100 years in the wild.

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