Two-Headed Turtle Hatchling Wows New England Wildlife Researchers

The New England Wildlife Center has shared photos of an unusual discovery with its followers on social media — a two-headed turtle hatchling!

The diamondback terrapin has a condition known as bicephaly. “Similar to conjoined twins” in humans, the group noted on Facebook, “they share parts of their body but also have some parts that are independent. In this case ‘they’ have two heads and six legs. On admission both sides were very alert and active and our veterinary team was eager to learn more about them.”

What they’ve found is unlike any other turtle they’ve studied: two brains, six legs, one shell, two stomachs, and two spines fused into one.

Mary-Kate and Ashley, as the conjoined turtles have been named, are quite a marvel!

Because bicephaly is such a rare condition, researchers can learn a lot from live creatures that have it — however, it is often a difficult condition to manage and causes health problems that dramatically shorten or deteriorate the quality of life for those that have it.

PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/Gjcrew

Fortunately, Mary-Kate and Ashley are doing well: “They are eating, swimming, and gaining weight each day. It is impossible to get inside the heads of these two, but it appears that they work together to navigate their environment,” the team wrote.

With each side controlling three legs, Mary-Kate and Ashley are able to dive and resurface just as well as their peers. The find could lead researchers to learn more about not only bicephalic animals but about how each part of a typical animal’s development is affected by their brain and body’s structure.

PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / LTSHEARS

Learn more at the New England Wildlife Center’s Facebook page here!

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