Story: Evolution of plants and animals

Tuatara eating a chick

Tuatara eating a chick

This tuatara on Stephens Island is eating a prion chick. Tuatara are ancient creatures, little changed for 200 million years. They are the only living members of the order Sphenodontia. There were many other species of this order when dinosaurs lived. They eventually became extinct some 60 million years ago, but for some reason the tuatara survived. One explanation is New Zealand’s isolation. The predators and competitors that arose in other countries never reached New Zealand, so primitive animals like the tuatara were able to survive.

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How to cite this page:

Matt McGlone, 'Evolution of plants and animals - Distinctive qualities', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 May 2024)

Story by Matt McGlone, published 24 Sep 2007