A rare two-headed turtle born three weeks ago, is in good health and thriving. The rare diamondback terrapin turtle with six legs, is said to be in top shape at the Birdsey Cape Wildlife Center in Massachusetts.
Staff at the centre say the turtle, which is a threatened species in the United States, is feeding well on blood worms and food pellets.
Its two heads operate independently of each other, coming up for air at different times. It has two separate gastrointestinal systems inside its shell to feed both sides of the body.
Katrina Bergman, the chief executive officer at New England Wildlife Centres said:
We were excited, aghast, and concerned. We didn’t know if they would be able to eat on their own. They’ve grown up to three inches now. They’re eating and gaining weight.
The turtle originally came from a nest in West Barnstable that researchers determined was in a hazardous location and needed to be moved.
It is normal practice to move turtles hatched in these so-called ‘head start’ nests to different care centres for monitoring before being released into the wild in the spring.
Staff at the centre wondered about their ability to swim, worrying that one side might overpower and drown the other. But that wasn’t the case, according to Bergman.
We were shocked that each head controlled three legs, and they were able to swim together, which was astonishing. When they came up for air, they were both able to get air.
The turtle, which has been nicknamed Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen after the twin child stars, will continue to be monitored.
The staff is hoping to perform a CT scan after its four-month birthday to learn more about its circulatory system. Its sex has also yet to be determined.