Nature is full of strange cases and surprises, but none like the one produced by two sister “Siamese” turtles who were born together in a wildlife center in Massachusetts, United States.
The image shared on Facebook by the Cape Cod branch of the New England Wildlife Center shows two heads attached to a single body, a condition known as bicephaly. And, against all odds, they have managed to coordinate to start swimming, so they seem willing to live.
Bicephaly, the diagnosis of Siamese tortoises
The condition can be a consequence of both genetic factors and environmental factors that affected the embryos during their development. However, there still seems to be a lot to learn, and these sisters seem like a great opportunity to do so.
The sisters have been diagnosed with a condition known as bicephaly, which means having two heads. These cases are extremely rare in animals, and the few times they do occur, they end in early death. Therefore, there is very little information on the disease in different species.
Coordinated swimming turtles
The diamondback turtle hatchlings (Malaclemys terrapin) were born in a protected nesting site in Barnstable, Massachusetts, so they are safe. Since they hatched, the conservation center team has been looking after them for a little over two weeks and their prognosis seems very positive.
“Animals with this rare disease do not always survive long or have a good quality of life, but these two have given us reason to be optimistic,” the wildlife center team wrote in their post. They are both “very alert” and “active”, which is really hopeful.
Seeing this, the team tested their capabilities in a deep water swimming event where they excelled. The two individuals coordinated to swim to the surface and breathe. “It’s impossible to get into the heads of these two, but they seem to work together to navigate their environment,” say conservationists.
Siamese tortoises eat, swim, and leave evidence of their nutrition as they gain weight. In fact, when the researchers viewed the X-rays of the gastrointestinal tract, they discovered that each has a separate gastrointestinal tract. One of them seems more developed than the other, but both are able to digest their food on their own.
There is still much to learn from them
And since they seem willing to fight for survival, the wildlife center has put in place some procedures to learn from them. As reported so far, these turtles were born with two spines that merge further down their body. It also appears that each one is in control of its three legs.
For the time being, the researchers are looking forward to their getting older to undergo a CT scan. Through it, they hope to visualize the configuration of their internal organs and the structures they share.
Rare conjoined turtles hatched in Massachusetts. https://www.livescience.com/two-headed-turtle-hatchling-massachusetts