Reptile Pile: Tuatara vs. Worm Lizard

It’s time for a reptilian head-to-head! We’re making friends with some lesser known reptiles in this month’s competition, so let’s get to know a little more about them before picking sides!


Tuataras may look like an iguana’s long lost cousin, but they are actually from a completely separate lineage of reptiles. They are the only surviving members of the order Rhynchocephalia (‘beak-heads’).

Rhynchocephalians are distinguished from squamates by a number of traits. These include gastralia (abdominal “ribs”, also present in living crocodilians), a narrow quadrate bone, an enclosed or partially enclosed temporal fenestra (an opening of the skull), the placement of jugal bones, and a large coronoid process present on the lower jaw.

Tuataras have the slowest development of any living reptile, continuing to grow larger for the first 35 years of their lives! Their average lifespan is 60 years, with some living over 100 years in captivity. A tuatara named Henry, living in New Zealand’s Southland Museum, is still going strong at 120 years old!

Tuataras are endemic to New Zealand, and even there they were extinct everywhere except the offshore islands until 2008, when a hatchling was discovered in the North Island’s wildlife sanctuary “Zealandia.”

Worm Lizard

Worm lizards look a bit like snakes who mated with accordions, and they likewise are not worms nor lizards. Worm lizards, formally known as amphisbaenians, are a more closely related to lizards than the Tuatara, hailing from the same order (Squamata).
Their name comes from Amphisbaena, a mythical serpent with a head at each end— a reference to both their appearance, and their ability to move in reverse as well as forward.
Amphisbaenians are carniverous, burrowing animals with distinctive looking skin. They have rings of scales which they can stretch or expand like an accordion, helping them to burrow into the soil. As underground dwellers, they don’t have much need for eyesight. They have rudimentary eyes that are recessed into the head, and mostly allow for light detection. They also have no outer ears.
There are 6 families of worm lizards recognized today. Though most are totally limbless, Mexican amphisbaenians from the Bipedidae family do have mole-like limbs with 5 claws. Indeed the only living species from this family is called the Mexican mole lizard.
Now that we know a little more these oddball reptiles, it’s time to pick a victor! Choose your fighter and let the games begin! The competition starts at 11:00 AM ET on 8/22 and goes for 48 hours. Bonus information is detailed in your notifications.


Swag: The top scoring player on the winning team wins a t-shirt, plus a sticker/magnet set! Second and third place on the winning team will each also win a sticker/magnet set.