The diamondback turtle that hatched from a nest in West Barnstable – has two heads and six legs, making this reptile, whose species is already endangered, even rarer.
The turtle has two independent gastrointestinal systems, and each head works independently to breathe and eat. The turtle also has two spines that fuse at one point, and each side of the turtle controls three legs.
Now under the care of veterinarians at Cape Birdsey Wildlife Center, the turtle is eating well, receiving a diet of worms and food pellets.
On the Wildlife Center’s Facebook page, staff explained that bicephaly – having two heads – “is a rare abnormality that can occur due to both genetic and environmental factors affecting the embryo during development.”
“Like conjoined twins, humans share body parts, but there are also independent parts,” the staff wrote. “In this case, ‘they’ have two heads and six legs.”
Although animals with bicephaly don’t always survive, the staff says, “these two have given us reason for optimism!”