Rare Two-Headed Turtle Hatches on Massachusetts Beach

by Megan Molseed

A rare two-headed baby turtle is making some major headlines after the hatchling was discovered on a beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

“No you are not seeing double!” notes the Cape Wildlife Center Facebook page of the unique pair the center has dubbed “They”.

“This diamondback terrapin hatchling actually has two heads,” the post continues.

The Cape Cod Wildlife Education Center broke the news of this unique reptile on its social media Sunday afternoon.

The Unique Turtle Emerged From A Protected Area

The baby diamondback terrapin turtle hatched from a protected nest in the area. This nest is located in the town of Barnstable, which is located near the Cape Wildlife Center.

However, once the unique turtle was noticed by the Barnstable Natural Resources Department, the staff took the unique pair to a local wildlife hospital, and then later, the Cape Cod Wildlife Education Center.

““They” hatched from a protected nesting site in Barnstable,” notes the Cape Cod Wildlife Center in the Facebook announcement. “and were brought to the hospital by Barnstable department of natural resources for assessment.”

According to the Cape Cod Wildlife Center’s Sunday afternoon Facebook post, the hatchling has a rare anomaly. This condition is typically known as “bicephaly.”

This condition is one in which the development of embryos is impacted based on various genetic and environmental factors.

“Similar to conjoined twins in human they share parts of their body but also have some parts that are independent,” the center said in the post. “In this case “they” have two heads and six legs.”

The wildlife center goes on to say that they have an excellent veterinary team working on the hatchling. And, the experts note, the turtles seem to be doing very well.

“On admission, both sides were very alert and active,” the post notes.

“Animals with this rare condition don’t always survive very long or live a good quality of life,” the center explains.

However, notes the center, “these two have given us reason to be optimistic!”

Doing Well!

According to the Facebook post, the hatchling has been in their care for about two weeks. And, the center notes, the turtles are doing well – eating regularly, swimming, and gaining weight each day.

Now, the next step in the hatchling’s care is to figure out how their gastrointestinal (GI )tracts work; and can they each processed food separately.

“A barium study revealed they each have separate GIs,” the center says in the post.

However, the center notes, one side appears to be progressing better along these lines than the other.

“The right side appears to be slightly more developed,” the Cape Wildlife Center says. “But they are eating and digesting food.”

The Hatchlings Are Working Together To Stay Active!

According to the post, x-rays have shown that the hatchling has two spines that “fuse further down the body.”

During their time at the center, experts have been keeping a keen eye on the unique turtle and discovered that each side of the hatchling has control of three of the six legs.

“A supervised deep water swim test showed that they can coordinate swimming,” notes the update. “So that they can come to the surface to breathe when needed.”

“It is impossible to get inside the heads of these two,” the post adds. “But it appears that they work together to navigate their environment.”