Never too old - 1st time Dad at 111
29 Jan 2009
It seems fatherhood has no age limit especially in the reptile community - an 111-year-old New Zealand tuatara has just become a Dad for the first time.
The rare and ancient reptile known as Henry hit world headlines last year when a rather public sex romp resulted in his lover Mildred laying 12 eggs. Eleven eggs survived and now all them have hatched making Henry a Dad 11 times over, in less than a week.
Babies doing well
The baby tuatara, whose ancestors go back 220 million years, were born at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery in Invercargill over the last few days.
Museum staff say that all the hatchlings are now running around and doing well, and are on display for visitors to view.
There were now 72 tuatara at the museum, including 44 babies.
Henry has been a resident at the museum since 1970 and has shown no interest in sex during the entire time he’s been in captivity.
In fact he’d earned himself a reputation for aggression and for 15 years was kept in solitary confinement.
Change of mood
But when a cancer growth was removed from his bottom Henry had a change of mood. He got amorous with Mildred and in March last year finally proved his manhood.
Museum staff said they were "over the moon" that the 111-year old had finally become a father.
"After 36 years of looking after Henry I was chuffed about the mating, then the eggs hatched and now, after nurturing them for 223 days, we have got the results," said the museum’s tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley.
Oblivious to fatherhood
Hazley said Henry didn't have a clue that he now had his own children.
"If he saw the babies and they came close they would be lunch," he said.
Henry's newfound confidence means he is now living with three women, and is expected to get cosy with Lucy in April.
Tuatara are rare, medium-sized reptiles found only in New Zealand.
They are the only existing members of the Order Sphenodontia, which was well represented by many species during the age of the dinosaurs, 200 million years ago. All species apart from the tuatara declined and eventually became extinct about 65 million years ago.
A tuatara fossil found in the South Island recently suggests that ancestors of the present day tuatara covered the Zealandia landmass as it split from Gondwana 82 million years ago.
International scientists say the discovery supports the "Moa’s Ark" theory that some parts of New Zealand have always stayed above the sea surface.
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