Sphenodon diversum Colenso, 1886:123 (1885?)

North Island tuatara



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Sphenodon diversus Colenso, 1886:123


Considered a synonym of the living Tuatara, S. punctatus, by (Fawcett & Smith, 1970:90):

"There is, curiously, only one other junior synonym, known to us, invalid at the subspecies level: Sphenodon diversus Colenso, 1886, a name based upon recent bones from the North Island (Napier). Wettstein (1937: 230) accepts Colenso's name for a distinct subspecies, but Wermuth and Mertens (1961) do not mention it. The species is known to have occurred in early historic times at various localities (and probably continuously) along the east coast of the North Island northward from the Wellington area, and is known to have been used as food by the native Maoris (Dawbin, 1962: 18) who no doubt transported them considerable distances from their natural habitat, leaving their bones in kitchen middens. Since Colenso's name is based upon skeletal material only, recognition of his taxon is not justified without geographic analysis of osteological variation in mainland as well as insular populations."


Conservation Status

Known only from sub-fossil remains (Colenso, 1886).



North Island, New Zealand


Biology & Ecology










Original Scientific Description:

Colenso, William. (1886). Notes on the Bones of a Species of Sphenodon, (S. diversum, Col.,) apparently distinct from the Species already known. Transactions of the Royal Society of New Zealand 18: 118-123. [HTML version]


Other references:

Dawbin, William H. (1962). The tuatara in its natural habitat. Endeavor 21(81): 16-24, figs. 1-20.

Fawcett, James D. and Smith, Hobart M. (1970). An Overlooked Synonym of Sphenodon punctatus, the New Zealand Tuatara. Journal of Herpetology 4(1-2): 89-91.

Wettstein, Otto von. (1937). Rhynchocephalia. Kükenthal's Handbuch der Zoologie, 7(Sect. 1, Lief. 3): 225-235, figs. 172-174.


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