TUATARA   Sphenodon punctatus

This unique reptile was once widespread throughout  New Zealand but is now restricted to islands in Cook Strait and the North Eastern side of the North Island.  They are regarded as living fossils as all the other members of the order, which dates back some 200 million years, have been extinct for many centuries. They are nocturnal and live in burrows which they dig for themselves or sometimes share those of sea birds which roost in similar habitats such as cliff bound forests. Feeding mainly on large insects they will also take geckos and skinks if the opportunity arises.  The females lay a clutch of up to fifteen soft shelled eggs which are buried in the ground and may take fifteen months to hatch. There life span is in excess of one hundred years and could possibly be much longer.

tuatara head