Wildlife officials in New England are seeing double as a tiny turtle born in New England is setting out to prove that two heads are really better than one.
The Cape Wildlife Center in Massachusetts announced the birth of a rare diamondback terrapin turtle hatchling that was born with two heads and six legs due to a condition called “bicephaly.”
“This is a condition called bicephaly and is a rare anomaly that can occur from both genetic and environmental factors that influence an embryo during development,” according to officials.
“‘They’ hatched from a protected nesting site in Barnstable (County in Massachusetts) and brought to the hospital by (the) Barnstable Department of Natural Resources for assessment.”
Officials at the Cape Wildlife Center said that the turtle is similar to conjoined human twins in that they share parts of the body, but also have others that are independent.
In this particular case “they” have two heads and six legs. Upon admission, both sides were very alert and active and the veterinary team is interested in doing further research on the rare animal.
The Cape Wildlife Center noted that animals with this condition don’t always survive or have a high quality of life, but this particular turtle “has given us reason to be optimistic.”
“‘They’ have been in our care for just over two weeks and continue to be bright and active,” they said. “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.”
Moving forward, the veterinary team said it will be taking the case day-by-day and will work as quickly as they can to learn as much about the turtles until they are out of their care.
So far, X-rays revealed that they have two spines that fuse further down the body, with each of the turtles having control of three legs each.
“After hatching they had one shared yolk sac that provided them nutrition in the first few days after entering the world however with that resource used up our next step was to see what their gastrointestinal tract looked like and if they would each be able to eat and absorb nutrients to continue to grow,” they said.
The turtle - which has not been named - can coordinate swimming on both sides so it can come to the surface when necessary, and vets plan to administer a CT scan once they are further developed, which will provide more data and information about which internal structures they share.
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