Tuatara Pictures

 
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Tuatara Photos Showing This Endangered Reptile Endemic to New Zealand

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The Tuatara, Spenodon sp., is an endangered reptile endemic to New Zealand. Its name comes from the Maori and means 'old spiny back'. Although they resemble lizards they are a different order, Sphenodontia, and only two species still survive. The Northern tuatara, Sphenodon punctatus is found on 29 islands in and around the Cook Strait, and is olive green through grey to dark pink or brick red, often mottled, and always with white spots. Brothers Island tuatara, Sphenodon guntheri live only on North Brother Island and have olive brown skin with yellowish patches. Tuatara grow to around 32 inches long, and have a distinctive spiny crest along their backs.

Tuataras survived because no predators invaded New Zealand until the arrival of man. Terrestrial mammals did not cross the Tasman Ocean, which separates New Zealand from Australia. Tuataras are unusual reptiles, since they like cool weather. They do not survive well over 77 degrees F but can live below 41 degrees, by hibernating in burrows in winter. Afrter the introduction of dogs, ferrets, pigs and cats the tuatara was near extinction. Tuatara now only lives on predator-free outlying islands, or in captivity. Tuataras live separate from each other in well defended burrows which are sometimes shared with seabirds. Tuataras emerge from burrows, mostly at night, to eat any animal they can find, mostly insects, worms, slugs and millipedes. They do not chase their prey, but sit and wait for anything that passes by. They sometimes emerge in the day to warm in the sun. Tuataras have lower teeth that fit into a groove between two rows of upper teeth. The teeth are made of bone and fastened to the outer surface of the jaw bone. Old tuataras are often edentulous and just eat with their jaw bones.

The female Tuarata buries up to 19 soft shell eggs in soil, about once every four years. The eggs are left to hatch by themselves just over a year later. Males fight vigorously over receptive females, and often show combat scars. The winning male inflates his throat and raises his spines while slowly circling the female, lifting his body up and down with each step. The juveniles mature slowly for around 10 years and live for 60 to 100 years. The tuatara has a third eye on the top of its head called the parietal eye, with 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 not known, but it is speculated that it is determine light and dark cycles, and helps with thermoregulation. It has no eardrum or earhole but hears through a middle ear cavity that is filled with loose tissue.

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Picture of a tuatara, Sphenodon punctatus, New Zealand, Pacific Ocean

Picture #: 014568

Stock photo of a tuatara, Sphenodon punctatus, primitive reptile, endangered and endemic, New Zealand, Pacific Ocean

Picture #: 070720

Image of a tuatara, Sphenodon punctatus, New Zealand, Pacific Ocean

Picture #: 028223

Photo of a tuatara, Sphaenodon punctatum, endangered and endemic, Christchurch, New Zealand

Picture #: 047001

picture of a tuatara picture of a tuatara picture of a tuatara picture of a tuatara

Picture of a tuatara, Sphenodon punctatus, endangered and endemic, Christchurch, New Zealand, close up of head

Picture #: 047035

Stock photo of a tuatara, Sphenodon punctatus, endangered and endemic, Christchurch, New Zealand, Pacific Ocean

Picture #: 047034

Image of a tuatara, Sphenodon punctatus,endangered and endemic, Christchurch, New Zealand, close up of head

Picture #: 047036

Photo of a tuatara, Sphaenodon punctatum, endangered and endemic, New Zealand

Picture #: 070768

 

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