Tuatara forever

My February beer of the month is the Land of Hops and Glory India Pale Ale (5%) by Tuatara Brewery.

Holy god, I have found my favorite beer ever. This is robust and big and OMNOMNOM. Usually I photograph it in the glass, but I cannot because I drank it before it occurred to me to get my phone out.


As you can see, the bottle is textured. Bumpy. Delightfully knobbly. This is supposed to look like the eponymous tuatara skin, but instead makes me think of the more depraved AO3 fics where Peter Hale and Stiles Stilinksi experiment with highly unsafe object insertion.


by Swee Oon on Flickr.jpg
Tuatara. Photo by Swee Oon on Flickr. Note to self: tuatara are not sex toys. .

I grew up, like all young New Zealanders, hearing that the tuatara [1] is a “living dinosaur.” This is a load of crap. It is not a dinosaur: not even close. It’s related to snakes and lizards. As you’d expect, given that it looks like a lizard.

Mga Manu images on Flickr.jpg
Tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus) watching you with her third eye. Photo by Nga Manu Nature Reserve

The kiwi is our national animal, but it should be the tuatara instead. Kiwi are innocuous, stubby, and easy fodder for introduced predators like rats and stoats. Tuatara are vicious killers who eat baby chicks, have a photosensitive third eye, and are the only remaining species from an entire order – the Sphenodontia – that’s been around since the Mesozoic: that’s 250 millions year. Tuatara ran from under the feet of dinosaurs. Sure, they’re also cold blooded and slow to get going in the morning, but hey, let those of you without a caffeine addiction throw the first stone.

Tuatara with a prion chick, photo by Paddy Ryan.jpg
Tuatara with a prion chick. Photo by Paddy Ryan

Wikipedia points out that Sphenodontids are “the least successful of the lepidosaurs” but, let’s face it, that’s New Zealand all over. We’re awesome – third eye awesome – but it’s kind of a small miracle we’re a blip on the world stage at all, dressing in black and angsting about how overlooked we are, even as we win Olympic medals and make epic films about orcs. New Zealand has no mighty Empire. Our entire air force comprises 17 helicopters and 28 planes [2]. We don’t even have Marshmallow Peeps.  But fuck it, we’re here, and we refuse to give up.

The ancestors of the tuatara survived the Great Dying – the earth’s largest extinction event. This was the big one, way bigger than the extinction event that killed the dinosaurs (which the tuatara did, of course, also survive). In the Permian-Triassic extinction 83% OF ALL SPECIES died, and 96% of marine species.

What is entirely worrying is that although we don’t know exactly what caused the Great Dying, one of the likely hypotheses is that it was at least in part due to global climate change, which caused disruptions in sea level, water acidity, and ocean circulation. You know, those things we’re having, um, now.

One of the big problems with climate change is the ocean develops areas of anoxia – bits of water that are effectively out of oxygen. Ocean anoxia is linked to every one of the many extinction events the Earth has already experienced. Interestingly, NASA points out, The size and number of marine dead zones—areas where the deep water is so low in dissolved oxygen that sea creatures can’t survive—have grown explosively in the past half-century.” Dead zones are linked to warmer water, which causes microbe growth; microbes that are fed by fertilizer runoff.

I’m betting my money on the tuatara surviving the next big extinction: the one we are causing. Currently between 500 and 36,000 species a year are going extinct. D’ya see how inexact that number is? That’s because we don’t even know what we had, and now it’s already going… going… gone. One analysis predicts that 75 percent of life on Earth may become extinct by 2200.

My takeaways from this:

  • Drink good beer [3]
  • Read good books
  • Use up your washi tape
  • Wear your ‘best’ dress to the supermarket
  • Love your friends
  • Enjoy every day

Let us all be as the tuatara and refuse extinction. M/M forever.




[1] ‘Tuatara’ is both the singular and the plural. The word is Maori , meaning ‘spiny back’.

[2] It’s difficult to believe, but our Navy is worse. They patrol an area 4,300,000 km2 in size. We have 11 ships. No, I’m not kidding

[3] or your poison of choice

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