ANIMALS In Praise Of … The Tuatara (No. 14)

Posted by on 18. Dezember 2011
Tuatara

The Tuatara, strangest animal on earth ...

As fossil the Tuatara can be found on almost all continents. Alive in New Zealand only. A big lizard with a scaly skin and a single row of spines running down the neck and back. Some are grey, some olive green, males may reach 60 cm or 24 in and 1,2 kilos (ca. 3 pounds), the females 22 in or 55 cm and 0,5 kilos (ca. 1 pound). To groww up it takes them 30 years but after that they go on living for another 30 to 70 years, and some Tuatara, the Maori say, may live as long as 300 years! No other animal, to to mention men, ever had a Third (or parietal) Eye bus this reptile, who lived with and survived the dinosaurs, has one – a vestige of a primitive, optically functional eye which lies directly beneath a small hole an the top centre of the skull. Externally it is only visible on hatchlings and appears as a small patch of opaque scale 2 to 3 mm (roughly 0,13 in) across. Beneath is a rudimentary lens and cup-shaped retina which is connected to the brain by the parietal nerve. It is believed that the Third Eye functions as a ight sensor through which the biological clock of the young animals is entrained by photo receptivity of the nerve tissue. But within a few weeks of hatching the opaque scale is replaced by normal ones that no further light passes through and the Third Eye ceases to function. The Tuatara live of scattered islands around New Zealand and to hold one in my arms I had to travel far. The grip is amazingly strong, the bite rather soft but the emotion of an encounter with somebody who has a Third Eye is enormous …

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