A wildlife center in New England recently welcomed an unexpected sighting: a two-headed turtle. From its remarkable birth to its unique features, here's why the rare animal has left scientists stunned.
The Cape Wildlife Center first announced the big news on Facebook: "No you are not seeing double! This diamondback terrapin hatchling actually has two heads," the Massachusetts reserve proudly explained. As they revealed, the two-headed creature hatched on a protected nesting site before leaving researchers baffled. And perhaps with good reason...
"When they came in, wow — it knocked us on our butts because we've never seen a bicephaly animal or turtle before," Katrina Bergman, CEO of the New England Wildlife Centers, recalled. With two heads and six feet, the remarkable creature – similar to conjoined twins – is like nothing they've ever witnessed. At the same time, though, that realization brings a new wave of concern.
Bicephaly, the medical condition resulting in two-heads, "is a rare anomaly that can occur from both genetic and environmental factors that influence an embryo during development," as the Wildlife Center explained. Unfortunately, animals born with the unique trait (as seen below) typically boast an unfavorable survival rate.
"The first thing we want to look for: Are they going to live and survive? Are they sustainable?" Bergman explained. "And the second is: What is their quality of life? We judge that by how they're growing, if they're eating, are they swimming, are they both coming up for air?" Thankfully, this diamondback "twin" seems to be defying all odds. Not only has the turtle grown over an inch since being welcomed at the facility, but it appears to be adjusting well. The twins "continue to be bright and active. They are eating, swimming, and gaining weight each day," the Cape Wildlife Center assured.
Of course, there's still lots to be learned about the medical marvel. Once the creature is big enough, a CT scan will help provide further information. Until then, "everybody is just really excited to see and monitor them," Bergman explained.
Stay tuned while this story develops.