Barnstable County

Cape Wildlife Center welcomes rare two-headed turtle

BARNSTABLE, Mass. — A diamondback terrapin, a turtle species, hatched at Barnstable’s Cape Wildlife Center two weeks ago but was born with a rare condition - having two heads! The rare condition is called bicephaly.

The Barnstable nesting site and wildlife hospital told Boston 25 News the anomaly occurs from genetic and environmental factors that can influence an embryo’s development. The turtle hatched from a protected nesting site in Barnstable and was brought to the wildlife hospital by the Barnstable Department of Natural Resources for assessment.

On admission, both sides were alert and active. The center’s veterinary team said they’re eager to learn more about the two heads. They added that typically animals with bicephaly don’t usually survive or live a good quality of life, but the center’s team is optimistic.

While the team is taking this case day-by-day, they report that the turtle is eating, swimming, and gaining weight each day, and it appears the two heads work together to navigate.

Through X-ray screenings, officials determined the turtle has two spines fused further down the body. After observing the turtle swim and move around, they discovered each head has control of three legs, while the right side of the body appears to be more developed.

The center hopes to do a CT scan soon to learn more about what internal structures the turtle has.


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