A Floridian snake-breeder recently ended up with a two headed snake that has two separate hearts.
The snake, at two weeks old, was featured on a National Geographic program.
The creature was born with two heads, which emerge from a shared body.
Both heads check out their surroundings separately and flick their own tongues.
The snake was presented to the office of Veterinarian Dr Susan Kelleher for examination.
The office specializes in exotic animal care, and an employee there, Dr Lauren Thielen, examined the two-headed snake.
An X-ray of the animal revealed that it has two functioning hearts inside.
Other two-headed creatures have a tendency to have just one set of internal organs.
Dr Thielen said: ‘I was shocked it has two hearts. But it was really cool to understand that the Siamese twin snake was really two snakes in one outer skin.’
After an x-ray revealed the possibility of the creature having two hearts, Dr Thielen used non-invasive technology called a doppler ultrasound to further examine it.
Dr Thielen explained: ‘We’re using the doppler to assess the heart rate of the snake and also to evaluate that, indeed, this snake has two hearts.’
‘It does! Did you hear that?,’ she said in amazement when she heard two heartbeats while employing the doppler ultrasound.
She joked: ‘So, they have a banging circulatory system! It’s going to run marathons – slither marathons – this snake is.’
The machine allowed veterinarians to listen to the two individual heartbeats and confirm that the animal really does have a pair of the organs, which are both pumping blood within the body.
The doppler ultrasound also enabled the doctors track the animals’ internal blood flow.
Dr Thielen said she had never seen a two-headed boa before.
The case is rare, but other instances of two-headed snakes have been recorded.
A two-headed albino Honduran milk snake was previously featured on National Geographic.
This snake, named Medusa, was filmed the first time it ate.
Some two-headed creatures end up competing for food, but while one of Medusa’s two heads started to consume a dead mouse, the other watched the spectacle calmly.
The creature seemingly swallowed the dead mouse without any issues.
Another unique trait of the two-headed boa Dr Thielen examined is the creature’s two digestive tracts.
‘If there are two digestive systems then we may need to provide nutrition to “both” snakes,’ Dr Thielen said.
She added that this does negatively impact the snake’s chances of surviving.
‘Most snakes born like this do die because they cannot get proper nutrition, they share kidneys or they cannot defecate normally,’ she said.
WHAT IS POLYCEPHALY?
- Polycephaly occurs when an organism has multiple heads.
- Polycephalic organisms can be described as single beings that feature an above average amount of a body part or as two beings sharing a body.
- When humans have the condition, one of two situations can occur. Two heads can be side by side and supported by one torso, or two heads can be directly linked with a torso supporting only one.
- Two heads can share control of one’s organs and limbs.
- When animals have the condition, at times, their brains fight with each other.
- This can cause them to move about in a disoriented way as if they are not sure where they are going.
- Scientists have not determined an element that creates a distinct difference between two beings sharing one body and one body with two heads.
Dr Kelleher expressed excitement over the animal, saying: ‘What is this, like, one in a million, one in ten million? It’s rare, but it does happen. But I’ve never known it to happen in this species before. This is really neat.’
Boa constrictors do not hatch from external eggs. Rather, they are born via live births.
National Geographic said the two-headed boa was probably caused by an embryo that ceased to split after beginning to do so to create twins.
The instance likely gave way to the conjoined pair.
Cases of this happening among other animal species have been recorded, including examples of this happening to cats, cows, turtles, porpoises and sharks.