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n. pl. tuatara or tu·a·ta·ras
Either of two lizardlike reptiles (Sphenodon punctatus or S. guntheri) that inhabit several small New Zealand islands and are the only extant members of the group Rhynchocephalia or Sphenodontia, which flourished during the Mesozoic Era. Also called sphenodon.

[Maori tuatara : tua, back + tara, spine.]


(Animals) a greenish-grey lizard-like rhynchocephalian reptile, Sphenodon punctatus, occurring only on certain small islands near New Zealand: it is the sole surviving member of a group common in Mesozoic times. Also called: hatteria
[C19: from Māori, from tua back + tara spine]


(ˌtu əˈtɑr ə)

also tu•a•te•ra

(-ˈtɛər ə)

n., pl. -ras.
a large lizardlike reptile, Sphenodon punctatus, of New Zealand: the only surviving rhynchocephalian.
[1810–20;< Maori, =tua dorsal + tara spine]
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.tuatara - only extant member of the order Rhynchocephalia of large spiny lizard-like diapsid reptiles of coastal islands off New Zealandtuatara - only extant member of the order Rhynchocephalia of large spiny lizard-like diapsid reptiles of coastal islands off New Zealand
diapsid, diapsid reptile - reptile having a pair of openings in the skull behind each eye
genus Sphenodon, Sphenodon - coextensive with the order Rhynchocephalia: tuataras
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Secretary Boris Johnson holds a Tuatara lizard during a visit to Zealandia ecosanctuary in Wellington, New Zealand.
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