Tuataras – rarities from New Zealand
Tuataras (Sphenodon punctatus) are relics from the Mesozoic era, 200 million years ago and are therefore considered 'living fossils'. Within the order of the sphenodontia, a species belonging to the reptile family (reptilia), we have the tuatara, which is the only surviving member and can be considered along the same lines as turtles, crocodiles, lizards and snakes.
The double bony bridging of the temporal opening of the skull is characteristic of the tuatara – it is for this reason that they are known as 'Brückenechse' in German (literally: bridged lizard). But they are more commonly known by their Maori name 'tuatara'. Even though tuataras have no ear canal, they are capable of making noises. The male tuatara is lacking a sexual organ – and this is absolutely unique in the reptile kingdom.
More about tuataras can be found in our animal lexicon.