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Tuatara Facts

Scientific NameSphenodon Punctatus
Size70-80cm (28-31in)
Weight600-900g (1.3-1.9lbs)
Top Speed24km/h (15mph)
Lifespan50-100 years
Conservation StatusThreatened
ColourGreen, Brown, Grey
Skin TypeScales
Favourite FoodInsects
Habitatwoodland and grassland
Average Litter Size12
Main PreyInsects, Eggs, Lizards
PredatorsPigs, Cats, Rodents
Special FeaturesCrest along back and third eye on forehead

Tuatara Location

Map of Tuatara Locations
Map of Oceania


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 its tail. The tuatara also has a crest that runs down the middle of its body, which is particularly noticeable in male tuataras.

The tuatara is a very unique reptile, with its long tail and dinosaur-like crest, but the tuatara 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 its head, its use is still unknown. The tuatara has two rows of teeth on its 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 its 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.