Amazing Things

The Most Interesting Reptiles in the World and the AMAZING FACTS about them!


New Zealand is home to many weird species of plants and animals. The fact that the archipelago was isolated for millions of years has allowed strange critters like the kiwi, kaka, and the moa to exist up until modern times.

When it comes to reptiles, New Zealand is also home to the tuatara, a lizard-like creature that doesn’t seem all that outstanding at first glance. However, there are quite a few reasons that make this 1.5-kilogram (3 lb) creature the most interesting reptile on the face of the Earth.

The Tuatara’s Age

Because the tuatara has been around since the dawn of the dinosaurs, zoologists study this creature to determine how primitive reptiles behaved and what their anatomy was like. It’s also the least evolved of all the amniotes (a group that includes reptiles, birds, and egg-laying mammals). Interestingly, the tuatara has a brain, heart, and method of locomotion similar to those of amphibians. This clearly reveals that amphibians are the ancestors of reptiles.

Other features of the tuatara’s physiognomy—like its primitive, bony skull or its beak-like upper jaw—are no longer seen in modern reptiles. And because its brain is minute, scientists have used the tuatara’s brain cavity to estimate the volume of dinosaur brains. The primitive design of this animal is a gold mine for zoologists in terms of studying how the earliest amniotes were built and what type of lives they had.

8The Tuatara’s Unusual Features


Photo credit: Nga Manu Images NZ

While we’ve said that the tuatara is not directly related to reptiles or birds, we need to mention that this weird reptile has elements from a wide variety of orders, from snakes to turtles and from birds to amphibians. In fact, it shares commonalities with almost all vertebrates, except for mammals.

For example, the tuatara has a beak-like tip on its upper jaw and a rigid skull like that of a turtle. It’s shaped like a lizard, has a double row of teeth like a snake, and possesses organs similar to those of amphibians. It’s like nature created the tuatara out of remaining Lego parts from other designs. In other words, it’s the reptile equivalent of the platypus.

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About Barry G. Morris

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