Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Prehistoric Reptile: New Zealand's Tuatara. My Land.

That little guy above is one of the world's most unique creatures- a tuatara. Not a lizard, nor a surviving dinosaur, that reptile is in a class of its own that predates dinosaurs, and incredibly still survives today. New Zealand separated from the ancient Gondwana land mass long before it broke up and all the jig saw pieces moved around, eventually billions of years later to create the continental layout we see on our world map today.

Tuatara, or sphenodon are thought to date back over 200 million years and predate dinosaurs. Mother Nature surprises us when huge dinosaurs have died out but a much smaller and older reptile survives, making them a very special creature.
Tuatara bear their young in eggs with a flexible outer covering rather than a hard shell. Thought to live for around a hundred years, the one pictured is a juvenile male. Fully grown he'll
mature to about 60cm length.

Human settlement, and the introduced predators, have wiped out their mainland population, and now they are considered endangered. Restricted today to some 30 islands around New Zealand, those populations remain at threat should rats, ferrets or even hedgehogs become introduced to their island sanctuaries.

Holding one in my hands recently was a special occasion at Nga Manu Nature Reserve. He was still very placid, having come from a cool dark cage, but as he soaked up the sun, he became more lively and I had to hand him back to Reece, Nga Manu's Ranger, as they will bite when active. In the meantime, my mind raced, thinking of dinosaurs and Jurassic Park.
Thank goodness this is our largest remaining reptile of those times!

Nga Manu Nature Reserve is located at-
281 Ngarara Road , Waikanae, Kapiti Coast, New Zealand.
Open every day (except Christmas Day.) 10am- 5pm.



John in France said...

I think that this is incredible! People talk about seeing a Kiwi, but this.... You are amazing Jim!

sulekkha said...

Interesting post, Jim.You are lucky and brave to have held this reptile in your hand.Great history this little fellow has, thanks for sharing.

JIM said...

what a great opportunity to not only see it but to hold it. I had no idea that a animal that predated the dinosaurs still existed


Mary said...

Wow! what a beautiful creature! what a wonderful opportunity! learning something new every day:) thanks for sharing!

Jorie Pacli said...

Thanks goodness it didn't bite! That is one cool reptile Jim! Love it! I can only wish I'm holding it too right now... :)

Nelieta said...

What a privilege to be able to hold such an amazing animal in your hand!

Zablon said...

am afraid of reptiles, am glad you are not

Katherine said...

How cool is that! You are privileged to have had the experience.

Jim said...

It was a real privilege to hold that young reptile. They're cool like a snake is but softer.
Just goes to show New Zealand is unique, but we've not just got kiwis to show our visitors. We have prehistoric reptiles too.