There is a little known resident of New Zealand that has its own root on the Tree of Life. It is a unique species.
It is a creature which may be the longest lived creature on Earth. One which has lived for millions of years (since the Dinosaur age) and, like the coelacanth, is termed a living fossil. This creature is the Tuatara.
It is a reptile which is endemic to New Zealand. It can live for a reputed 200 years. With so much time on your hands…why do anything quickly?
They reach sexual maturity at 10-20 years old and there is a Tuatara which is actively breeding at well past its centenary here today. They are able to reduce their heart rate in extremes of temperature to ensure their survival and temperature determines the sex of the offspring so climate change could be disastrous.
The final fact which is truly remarkable though is that they are born with a fully-functioning third eye in the top of their heads – perhaps to mitigate against predation. Amazing.
You won’t be surprised to learn that like so many of New Zealand’s native wildlife, Tuatara are under threat from introduced mammalian predators like stoats and rats. Thankfully, conservation work is giving them hope and there is recent evidence of Tuatara hatching outside captivity in special pest-controlled wildlife sanctuaries! Fantastic!
Here is a photo of Bruce, from the Kiwi Birdlife Park in Queenstown, so you can get an idea of what they look like…the name Tuatara is from Maori meaning “spiny back”…look closely…