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The Tuatara is an unusual reptile that lives on islands off the coast of New Zealand. This nocturnal (most active at night) animal sleeps in a burrow during the day and hunts at night. Although it looks like a lizard, it is not a lizard. The Tuatara has a life span of well over 60 years; it does not reach maturity until it is 20 years old.

Anatomy: Tuataras have dorsal crests along their back. They have a third pineal or parietal "eye" on their forehead; its purpose is unsure. These reptiles grow to be about 2 feet (60 cm) long. Unlike all other reptiles, the Tuatara's teeth are fused to the jaw bone.

Diet: Tuataras are carnivores (meat eaters). They eat insects (like the weta (a cricket), moths and beetles), reptiles (like lizards), worms, snails, eggs, baby birds and even other Tuataras.

Predators: Tuataras are eaten by rodents, pigs, and wild cats.

Habitat: Tuataras are native to chaparral habitats on islands off New Zealand. They went extinct on New Zealand itself in the late 1800's.

Reproduction: Tuataras hatch from leathery-skinned eggs. The female lays about a dozen eggs in a burrow; they take 1 to 1 1/4 years to hatch. There is no parental care.

Classification: Class Reptilia (reptiles), Order Rhynchocephalia (beak-headed reptiles), Family Sphenodontidae, Genus Sphenodon , Species punctatus and guntheri.

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