tu·​a·​ta·​ra | \ ˌtü-ə-ˈtär-ə How to pronounce tuatara (audio) \
plural tuatara or tuataras

Definition of tuatara

: a large spiny quadrupedal reptile (Sphenodon punctatum) of islands off the coast of New Zealand that has a vestigial third eye in the middle of the forehead representing the pineal gland and that is the only surviving rhynchocephalian

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Illustration of tuatara

Examples of tuatara in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The modern tuatara, for example, looks like a lizard but actually belongs to a different evolutionary group that last shared a common ancestor with lizards more than 250 million years ago. Riley Black, Smithsonian Magazine, 14 June 2021 Researchers have discovered that the reptiles, which date back to dinosaur days and can grow 14 feet long or more, can regenerate themselves — not unlike geckos, or the tuatara of New Zealand. Theresa Braines New York Daily News, Star Tribune, 3 Dec. 2020 Some of the area's species, like tuataras and kiwis, survived to the present. Gavin Mouldey, National Geographic, 11 Jan. 2018 On New Zealand's North Brother Island, for instance, rising temperatures have already biased the local tuatara population male— Jason Bittel, National Geographic, 20 June 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tuatara.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of tuatara

1890, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tuatara

borrowed from Maori

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The first known use of tuatara was in 1890

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Cite this Entry

“Tuatara.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tuatara. Accessed 25 Oct. 2021.

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Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about tuatara


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