Last week I came across an article about a 2-headed turtle. For me (and probably most people?), the headline alone was enough to make me read it. So, I read. The condition, called bicephaly, is simply a case of conjoined twins. In the case of this diamondback terrapin in Massachusetts, it has six legs with each head controlling three of them. They have their own gastrointestinal tracts and share part of the spine. WHOA. While the wildlife center staff believes it is healthy and happy, the turtle most likely won’t be released into the wild because the chances of survival are low.
The article headline also included the word “rare.” However, a quick search of the internet shows this condition may be rare, but there are plenty of 2-headed turtles out there. Bicephaly has also been seen in snakes and lizards and other animals, including humans. It results from either environmental or genetic anomalies as an embryo develops. Instead of splitting in two, it does not completely separate, leading to two heads on one body. In other cases, two separate embryos fuse together. Some turtles are born with four legs (as opposed to the recent discovery of the 6-legged one). How much of the rest of the body is separate or joined, varies by case.
For scientists, I can bet it will be interesting to see how this turtle gets along. I would love to see it myself! The two-headed snakes, not so much.