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111-year-old reptile to become a father

world Updated: Aug 06, 2008 12:41 IST
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A rare 111-year-old New Zealand reptile with links to the age of the dinosaurs is to become a father for the first time in at least 38 years after regaining an interest in sex.

Henry the tuatara, a lizard-like creature of prehistoric origin, had grown fat and lazy after arriving at Southland Museum in the remote South Island city of Invercargill in 1970, staff said.

But Henry has now mated with Mildred, his 80-year-old companion, and 11 of her eggs are expected to hatch in six months.

"He wasn't interested in sex until a cancerous tumour was removed from his bottom," curator Lindsay Hazley told AFP.

"He bit the tail off his previous female companion twice. But since the operation his hormones have been raging."

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

All species apart from the tuatara declined and eventually became extinct about 60 million years ago.

Henry, a 1.2 kilogram (2.6 pound), 600 mm (23 inch) long representative of his kind, is now enjoying the company of three females in his enclosure, with the next breeding season due in eight months.

"He's definitely up for it, he's become a real Jack the Lad since he lost his virginity," Hazley said.