A nocturnal burrowing lizardlike reptile with a crest of soft spines along its back, now confined to some small islands off New Zealand.
- Order Rhynchocephalia and genus Sphenodon: two species, in particular S. punctatum. All other members of the order became extinct during the Mesozoic era
- Finally, today's snakes, lizards, turtles, the tuatara, and crocodiles do enjoy a surprisingly broad latitudinal distribution.
- At some point, the researchers do not know exactly when, an unknown factor allowed lizards and snakes to rise to dominance in South America, relegating the sphenodontids to the relic tuataras in isolated New Zealand.
- New Zealand's tuataras were in a group of their own, and seem not to have changed at all.
Late 19th century: from Maori, from tua 'on the back' + tara 'spine'.
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