Islands inhabited by viable populations of tuatara have four features in common: low-growing, salt-tolerant trees that form a complete canopy over a relatively open forest floor; large invertebrates that include giant flightless orthopterans, carnivorous snails, giant centipedes, and large numbers of flightless tenebrionid beetles; high densities and wide diversities of lizards; and high densities and wide diversities of burrowing seabirds. The seabirds, dominated by petrels, prions, and shearwaters, are regarded as "ecosystem engineers" that soften and aerate the soils, enrich the soils with guano, and provide burrows used by tuatara.

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