The tuatara is a small to medium sized reptile, that is found only on a few small islands surrounding New Zealand. Although the tuatara was once found inhabiting mainland New Zealand in large numbers, today the tuatara is nearly extinct from the mainland.
Despite the lizard-like appearance of the tuatara, the tuatara is actually only a very distant relative of the lizard and the snake. The tuatara is believed to have broken off from lizards and snakes more than 200 million years ago!.
Tuataras are generally green or brown in colour and can grow up to a meter in length, from the head of the tuatara to the tip of it's tail. The tuatara also has a crest that runs down the middle of it's body, which is particularly noticeable in male tuataras.
The tuatara is a very unique reptile, with it's long tail and dinosaur-like crest, but the tuatara is has other features which make it stand out. Like all reptiles, the tuatara has excellent vision, but the tuatara also has a third eye on the top of it's head, it's use is still unknown. The tuatara is has two rows of teeth on it's upper jaw will line up either side of the teeth on the lower jaw.
The tuatara is a nocturnal reptile meaning that the tuatara rests during the hours of daylight and comes out to hunt for food at night. During the day, the tuatara sleeps in a burrow which it digs with it's strong claws into the ground. The tuatara also prefers temperatures that would be too cold for many other reptiles, and the tuatara hibernates during the colder winters.
The tuatara is a carnivorous animal, meaning that the tuatara only eats other animals in order to survive. The tuatara primarily preys on insects, beetles, spiders, birds eggs, frogs and small reptiles and mammals.
Due to the fact that there are few real predators in New Zealand, the tuatara has no real native predators. However, since the introduction of cats, foxes, dogs and stouts, the tuatara populations have been wiped out in wide areas.
Tuataras often live to be nearly 100 years old and so the tuatara only mates every 4 or 5 years. The female lays about a dozen leathery eggs which she digs into the ground. The eggs of the tuatara often take more than a year to hatch.