At the Southland Museum in Invercargill, New Zealand a rare and endangered native reptile, a tuatara, has become a father, possibly for the first time, at the age of 111.
Henry the tuatara was thought to be past his prime -- you would think -- especially since he has shown no interests in females since his arrival the Southland Museum in 1970. But last July Henry mated with Mildred, herself no spring chicken either; she’s in her 70’s. Mildred laid 12 eggs and this week after 223 days of incubation, 11 baby tuataras successfully hatched.
According to the Museum, Henry’s new found vitality may be due to a 2002 operation to remove a cancerous tumor under his genitals. Known for his foul moods and aggressive behavior towards other tuataras -- 25 years ago, Henry bit off Mildred's tail when the two were put together for mating purposes -- Museum tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley said that Henry has had a "major personality transplant."
Tuataras are found only in New Zealand and are sometimes referred to as "living fossils." They resemble lizards and are the only surviving members of a species that walked the Earth some 220 million years ago. Today most tuataras live in predator-free sanctuaries or on New Zealand’s offshore islands. They can live between 150 and 250 years and usually reach sexual maturity at about 20. This coming spring the newly rejuvenated Henry is expected to mate with another tuatara, Lucy, one of three females he currently lives with -- sounds like a basic cable reality TV show …