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Rare video of modern dinosaur hatching from shell

In this video, shot over seven hours at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, a rare reptile called a tuatara hatches from its shell.

The egg was the last to hatch of 23 being incubated in captivity at Victoria University, where scientists have been studying tuatara since the late 1940s. Their research and conservation efforts have helped save the threatened population from extinction.

Tuatara is a rare species of reptile belonging to the order Sphenodontia, which comprised many different species during the Mesozoic Era, 200 million years ago. All of the other species of that order became extinct by 60 million years ago, leaving the tuatara as the only living members on Earth today.

Measuring up to a foot and a half in length, and weighing as much as three pounds, tuatara (the name means "spiny back" in Mäori) have undergone few evolutionary changes in the last couple hundred million years, making them among the most primitive living reptiles.

They once proliferated on New Zealand's mainland, but now there are only about 100,000 of them left, living on offshore islands.

Tuatara.jpg
A Tuatara, in Waikanae, New Zealand
flickr user PhillipC
  • Amanda Schupak

    Amanda Schupak is the science and technology editor at CBSNews.com