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Tuatara: Biology and Conservation of a Venerable Survivor


By: Alison Cree(Author)

583 pages, colour & b/w photos, colour & b/w illustrations, tables

Canterbury University Press

Hardback | Nov 2014 | #217110 | ISBN-13: 9781927145449
Temporarily out of stock: order now to get this when available Details
NHBS Price: £86.99 $112/€97 approx

About this book

Pick up virtually any textbook on vertebrate evolution and you will find mention of the curious reptile known as tuatara (Sphenodon). The special evolutionary status of tuatara as the last of the rhynchocephalians – one of the four orders of living reptiles – is unquestioned. Wild members of the sole living species are now restricted to a few dozen remote islands around the New Zealand coast, where for several centuries they have been observed and studied by humans. But are tuatara really unchanged 'living fossils', or close relatives of dinosaurs, as sometimes portrayed?

This is the first detailed monograph for decades about this enigmatic reptile, and the first to be illustrated in colour throughout. The evolution, natural history and conservation of tuatara are covered in comprehensive detail, providing a valuable resource for the specialist yet in a style accessible to a wide readership. The special place of tuatara in Maori and popular culture is also considered. Tuatara have survived alongside humans for more than 700 years, though with their numbers much reduced; what are their future prospects in a globally changing world?


Acknowledgements   7
Preface   13
Conventions, units and abbreviations   17

Part One: Origins
Chapter 1. Evolution: last of the rhynchocephalians   21
Chapter 2. Isolation: Zealandia adrift   59
Chapter 3. Turmoil: the arrival of humans and other   87
Chapter 4. Ngārara: tuatara and other reptiles in Māori tradition   119
Chapter 5. Discovered by science: the first 200 years   163

Part Two: Biology of Tuatara Today
Chapter 6. Island populations and histories of study   213
Chapter 7. Ecology, feeding and behaviour   268
Chapter 8. Reproduction and life history   321
Chapter 9. Environmental relations: temperature, oxygen, water and light   402

Part Three: Future Survival
Chapter 10. Conservation: past, present and future   437
Chapter 11. Latest developments   505

Glossary of scientific terms   519
Glossary of Māori terms   523
Appendices   524
Scientific bibliography   535
Index   559

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Alison Cree is an associate professor of zoology at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. For nearly 30 years she has researched the biology of the tuatara – a distinctive New Zealand reptile – and contributed to its conservation management. An author of more than 100 scientific publications, she has also studied the biology of New Zealand lizards and frogs.

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