Wednesday, January 28, 2009

isn't he cute for 111 years old?

NEW Zealand's most celebrated centenarian, a rare reptile known as Henry, has discovered his charm and become a father for the first time at the age of 111.

Henry the tuatara, a lizard-like creature of prehistoric origin, has become the father of 11 offspring over the past four days, staff at the Southland Museum in the southern city of Invercargill said yesterday.

Henry once had a reputation for aggression and was not interested in sex, but he turned his life around after a cancerous growth was removed from his bottom.

He mated last March with Mildred, 31 years his junior, who laid 12 eggs in June with 11 surviving.

"It's the completion of a love story,'' museum tuatara curator Lindsay Hazley said.

The 1.2kg, 60cm long Henry, who had been known to attack female tuatara before his operation, was now living with three females "in great harmony'' and was expected to mate again this year, Mr Hazley said.

"He's had a major personality transplant.''

Henry, however, is unlikely to play an active role in parenting as tuatara are known to eat anything that is small and moves.

Tuatara, found only in New Zealand, are the sole surviving members of the order Sphenodontia, which was represented by many species during the age of the dinosaurs 200 million years ago, according to a government website.

Its relatives became extinct about 60 million years ago.

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