Meet the tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus), a unique creature that looks somewhat like a cross between an iguana and a dinosaur. It’s the last extant representative of its order – and it has a third eye, sort of.
This little fellow may look like a lizard, but it’s not. It’s actually the last living member of the lizard-like reptilian order Rhynchocephalia. This group first showed up around 240 million years ago. (Yes, older than the dinosaurs, the earliest types of which started walking the Earth approximately 233 million years ago.)
Some even refer to the tuatara as a “living fossil,” and with good reason: It has remained (mostly) unchanged since its heyday.
The tuatara’s name comes from a Māori word that means “peaks on the back.” This spiny reptile possesses a third eye, called a parietal eye, located at the top of its head.
While this extra eye does have a retina, lens, cornea, and nerve endings, the tuatara doesn’t use it to see. Scientists still aren’t sure about its exact purpose, although it’s been theorized that the eye helps the animal absorb ultraviolet rays and set its body clock.
Still remember your 5th-grade science classes? Test your knowledge and see if you still remember these facts and fundamental concepts in human anatomy, biology, botany, and other branches of science. Click here to try the “Are You Smarter Than A Pinoy Fifth-Grader” Challenge.
Follow the hashtag #FlipFacts on Facebook and Instagram to get your regular dose of science trivia!
Author: Mikael Angelo Francisco
Bitten by the science writing bug, Mikael has years of writing and editorial experience under his belt. As the editor-in-chief of FlipScience, Mikael has sworn to help make science more fun and interesting for geeky readers and casual audiences alike.