Sphenodon punctatus

At the halfway point of the school holidays already, and it’s time to bring out the big guns. We need to keep the kids entertained, and what better way than with a real life sphenodon punctatus? Great idea, and luckily for us, there’s several real ones, just up the road at Victoria University. Even luckier for us, they don’t mind dropping by Te Papa and showing them off.

So it was that several of us were all in NatureSpace at the same time to see our own repitilian ripsnorter.

Charley and Spike in NatureSpace | (c) Te Papa 2010

Charley and Spike in NatureSpace | (c) Te Papa 2010

 His name was Spike, and he was very gracious, sitting in his box waiting for a cameo while his handler Sue gave us a full and thorough rundown of the world of a tuatara.

Sue and Spike from Victoria University at NatureSpace, July 2010

Sue and Spike from Victoria University at NatureSpace, July 2010 | (c) Te Papa 2010

And interesting? Boy was it! Did you know these amazing things?

  • Tuatara metabolism is so slow that they can survive for maybe five years without food.  
  • A tuatara is born with a third eye. It’s a sensory organ that helps the newborn monitor its melatonin levels. Melatonin is a chemical that people and other animals have to help their bodies maintain circadian rhythms, which are the routines programmed into our (and a tuatara’s) brain. The third eye closes over as a tuatara gets older (and by old we mean OLD, because the oldest alive that we know of, Henry from Southland Museum is 110, and they could possibly get as old as 250).
  • A tuatara can hold its breath for nearly an hour. And, if that’s not enough, they can grow their tails back, if they’re careless and lose it under the fridge. And if you’re looking for more interesting information, how about this one, which I found care of the Ngati Koata trust,who look after Tuatara on Takapourewa Island in Cook Strait: A young tuatara will hunt during the day, to avoid being eaten by an adult tuatara at night.
After Sue had give her most excellent talk, the children set about to make their own tuatara. Ours were crafty cardboard creations, and there were some pretty fine and imaginative examples, such as the leopard print, or the one with the big black bushy eyebrows. And then there was the more realistic examples, as shown below:  two pictures are examples of classic tuatara behaviour: sunbathing on rocks and devouring insects.  And the bottom picture is the one I think sums it up: Xandi with his own rockstar reptile - the perfect end to a perfect day.
A tuatara crunching into a nice juicy waterbug in NatureSpace | (c) Te Papa 2010

A tuatara crunching into a nice juicy waterbug in NatureSpace | (c) Te Papa 2010

three tuatara sunbathing on a "rock" in NatureSpace | (c) Te Papa 2010

three tuatara sunbathing on a "rock" in NatureSpace | (c) Te Papa 2010

Xandi in NatureSpace with his fantastic creation | (c) Te Papa

Xandi in NatureSpace with his fantastic creation | (c) Te Papa

3 Responses

  1. Drew

    Not only great for the kids but beneficial for the Tuatara.
    I had an opportunity to handle a Tuatara over 40 years ago and have held a positive interest in them since. These kids will appreciate them forever.

    Reply
  2. Judith Satem

    I think your blog is a great idea to make children more involved with Te Papa. My grand-children (of whom Xandi, shown with his own tuatara is one) just love the museum and have learned so much and had such fun there.

    Reply
  3. Maria Gobbi

    We really loved your tuatara activity in the school holidays. My children really enjoyed making their own tuatara and actually meeting a real one. It was really informative and lots of fun!!!

    This blog is a great idea. We enjoyed reading it. Thank you so much.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)