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A turtle with two heads and six legs was found in Massachusetts last fall. The diamondback terrapin baby turtle was discovered by the Barnstable Department of Natural Resources, which runs a head start program to protect endangered terrapin turtles.
The diamondback has been subjected to being traded and consumed. Interestingly, the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s led to a decline in the consumption of the turtle. This was because alcohol was a primary ingredient in terrapin soup, and when it was prohibited, the dish became less popular.
Barnstable finds at-risk nests and raises the hatchlings in captivity for a year so they are protected from the weather and predators. During one of these searches, they came upon this unique specimen.
“We were as shocked as everybody else was because bicephaly does occur in the wild but it doesn’t usually look like this in turtles,” Zak Mertz, executive director of the Birdsey Cape Wildlife Center, told Discover magazine.” Since they are a threatened species, it is even more interesting and fascinating,” he added.
Bicephaly is an extremely rare thing to happen, but this turtle is even rarer. Usually, these kinds of turtles only have four legs, but this one had six, and they were all fully functioning.
The staff has examined the turtles to make sure they will be ok outside of captivity. During the studies, it was found that the turtles had “separate digestive tracks,” “separate spines,” “and possibly their own set of lungs and hearts.”
To make it in the wild, however, the turtles must be on the same page.
“If you’re not working together, you’re not going to be able to swim in the direction to get food,” said Mertz.
“If one goes down, and the other one’s breathing, they have to work together because they have two sets of lungs.”
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