A Living Fossil

The tuatara is one of the rarest creatures on earth. Tuataras are the only living members of an ancient group of reptiles called rhynchocephalians, or “beak-heads.” They are sometimes referred to as living fossils, because they have lived on Earth ever since the time of the dinosaurs. Tuataras are only found on a few small islands off the coast of New Zealand. They look fierce, but are actually very sleepy and slow-moving. This living fossil is so lazy, in fact, that it would rather move into the burrow of a bird called the sooty shearwater, than dig its own underground home.


  • ancient: Very old.
  • fossil: The remains or traces of a plant or animal from an earlier age.

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  1. Where does the tuatara find shelter?
  2. Why do you think this reptile is called a “living fossil”?
  3. Why do you think the tuataras are found only on the islands around New Zealand?