WELLINGTON, New Zealand – An indigenous New Zealand reptile regarded as one of the last remnants of the age of dinosaurs will become a father for the first time in decades at the age of 111, officials said Wednesday.
Henry the tuatara and his mate Mildred, herself aged between 70 and 80, produced 12 eggs in mid-July after mating earlier this year at the Southland Museum on New Zealand's South Island, tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley said.
Tuatara are the lizard-like last surviving genus of an order of reptile that walked the Earth with the dinosaurs 225 million years ago, zoologists say.
[Crocodiles and alligators are more closely related to dinosaurs than are tuatara, while birds are directly descended from one of the two major orders of dinosaurs.]
Henry has lived at the Southland Museum's special enclosure for tuataras since 1970 and had shown no interest in sex until he recently had a cancerous growth removed from his genitals.
He is now enjoying the company of three females and might breed again next March, Hazley said.
"With these guys, foreplay might take years. One has to be patient," he said.
Hazley said while Henry had never before mated in captivity, it is unknown whether he had ever done so in the wild.
The male tuatara reaches sexual maturity at age 20.
The population of tuatara in New Zealand is estimated at about 50,000, split among two different species.