An ancient lizard-like reptile has become a father at the ripe old age of 111, after receiving treatment for a cancer that had made him hostile toward prospective mates.
The captive centenarian tuatara, named Henry, was thought well past the mating game but was caught canoodling with a female named Mildred last March.
The pair now have 11 babies, which hatched over the weekend and are said to be doing well.
Henry the tuatara has 11 off-spring at the age of 111
Henry was at least 70 years old when he arrived at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery in New Zealand and was 'a grumpy old man' from the start.
He attacked other reptiles, including females and was kept in solitary confinement for 15 years. But after a cancerous tumor was removed in 2002 his mood improved.
'I went off the idea he was good for breeding,' gallery curator, Lindsay Hazley said, but once the tumor was removed, 'he was no longer aggressive.'
Henry's hatchlings will provide a much needed boost to the reptile's genetic diversity, Mr Hazley added.
'After 36 years of looking after Henry I was chuffed about the mating, then the eggs hatched and now, after nurturing them for 223 days, we have got the results,' he told the Southland Times.
Henry is unaware he has his own brood and Mr Hazley said the youngsters 'would be lunch' if they were placed near their dad.
Tuatara are indigenous New Zealand creatures that resemble lizards but descend from a distinct lineage of reptile that walked the earth with the dinosaurs 225 million years ago, zoologists say.
They take 70 years to fully mature but reach sexual maturity about age 20.
The reptiles reproduce by the male lifting the tail of the female and placing his vent over hers. The sperm is then transferred into the female, much like the mating process in birds.
The museum now has 72 of the reptiles after 42 hatchings in the past two years.
Tuatara are estimated to number about 50,000, most of them living in predator-free sanctuaries, including offshore islands.
Henry's newfound confidence means he is now living with three females. He is expected to get cosy with tuatara Lucy in April.
Henry the 'lizard' becomes surprise father at 111-years-old | Mail Online