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The Tuatara

Origin, Evolution and Lifespan

The Tuatara is a reptile from New Zealand; it looks like a lizard but isn’t one. This link will tell you more about that. They are incredibly long-lived and have a slow metabolism, taking 15 years to reach maturity and breeding every 2-5 years. Some experts think that a 200-year lifespan is possible.

I have just read this article, and it states that the Tuatara is evolving 10 times faster than the average animal. This is very strange as the Tuatara has remained almost unchanged for 220 million years. I imagine this is due to what has happened in more recent history.

Polynesian rats have been introduced onto many of the islands which the tuataras inhabit. The rats would not only compete with the tuataras for food by eating insects but will actually eat their eggs and young. On many of the islands the rats have been removed, to help the Tuataras and this seems to be working very well. I wonder if it is all this disruption that has made them evolve at such a rate.

I first saw Tuataras at Chester Zoo when I did some work experience many years ago, I found them interesting, but I didn’t appreciate them until I went to New Zealand. Unfortunately, I never got to see them in the wild, but I did see many captive ones, including Henry in Invercargill, who has recently become a father at the age of 111. Now that’s good going.

To find out more about pet reptiles, read our other blog articles. Also, take a look at our care sheets for in-depth guides on caring for individual reptiles.

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