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Tuatara skull, Sphenodon punctatus
Common Name: Tuatara
Scientific Name: Sphenodon punctatus
Order: Rhynchocephalia
Family: Sphenodontidae
Dimensions: Centimetres: 6 (length)
Museum ID Number: ROM2004_1062_14
Image Number: ROM2004_1062_14

Description: The tuatara is the only living member of an ancient group of reptiles. Today tuataras are found only on a few small islands off the coast of New Zealand.

Although they resemble lizards, they are quite different in many ways. Their metabolism allows them to function well at temperatures which are much lower than the temperatures required by most reptiles.

Skull characteristics are an important tool for reptile classification. The skull of the tuatara has two large openings, one above the other, in the side behind the eye socket. Lizards have only one such opening and turtles have none. Compare the skull of the tuatara with that of the bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps), a typical lizard. Tuataras have acrodont teeth, attached to the edge of the jaw, without roots. They have two large incisor-like teeth at the front of their jaw, and two additional rows of teeth on the roof of the mouth.

Location: New Zealand

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