January 30, 2009

110-year-old lizard a proud, new pop

Age didn't matter for a 110-year-old endangered male lizard-like creature and his 80-year old mate in New Zealand -- they just produced 11 offspring.

Henry, a tuatara, only recently showed interest in the fairer of his species after years of disinterest in procreation and irascible behavior, CNN reported Friday. Tuataras -- the only living descendants of an order related to dinosaurs that roamed Earth 200 million years ago -- are endangered, living only on a few islands in New Zealand.

In 2002, veterinarians at New Zealand's Southland Museum learned that a lump in Henry's private parts was a cancerous tumor. They removed it and, over the next few years, his temperament and interest in females perked up.

Henry, as far as museum curators know, had never mated before breeding with 80-year-old Mildred in March.

In July she laid 11 healthy eggs, which all hatched this week.

Eleven out of 11, curator Lindsay Hazley told CNN. Bloody brilliant. We had a champagne breakfast to celebrate.

Breeders say they hope Henry will mate with Lucy, who's about the same age as Mildred, later this year. Female tuataras usually only lay eggs every two or three years, they said.