The NZ Tuatara – a reptile resembling a lizard but originating 200 million years ago from the earliest diapsids group
The NZ Tuatara – a reptile resembling a lizard but originating 200 million years ago from the earliest diapsids group…
|A Tuatara in Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Temporal range: Early Cretaceous
|Male northern tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus)|
|dark red: range (New Zealand)|
The tuatara is a reptile that is endemic to New Zealand and which, though it resembles most lizards, is part of a distinct lineage, orderRhynchocephalia. The two species of tuatara are the only surviving members of its order, which flourished around 200 million years ago. Their most recent common ancestor with any other extant group is with the squamates (lizards and snakes). For this reason, tuatara are of great interest in the study of the evolution of lizards and snakes, and for the reconstruction of the appearance and habits of the earliest diapsids (the group that also includes birds, dinosaurs, and crocodiles).