“It’s amazing and extremely rare,” said Gino D’Angelo, assistant professor of deer ecology and management at the University of Georgia. “We can’t even estimate the rarity of this.”
In May 2016, a Minnesota man was hunting for mushrooms in a forest near the Mississippi River when he stumbled upon something unbelievable. Nestled in the underbrush was a newborn baby fawn, carrying two heads on one body.
Upon closer inspection, the creature was not breathing.
The baby deer were actually a pair of conjoined female twins with a body about 23 inches long. The fawns appeared to have been recently groomed. Yet the animals laid alone, dry and freshly deceased with no signs of the mother in sight.
Here’s more from LiveScience:
The mushroom hunter delivered the deer to the nearby Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, knowing he had discovered something remarkable.
Now, a new case study published in the April issue of the journal The American Midland Naturalist explains just how remarkable the conjoined fawns truly are. According to the new study, this discovery marks the first documented case of two-headed white-tailed deer twins brought to full term and birthed.
MRI scans revealed that the twins shared a single spinal column that forked into two distinct necks and heads about halfway up.
During the necropsy, researchers found that the fawns had two hearts nestled inside a single pericardial sac. They had two esophagi and forestomachs (the first compartment of the stomach where food is partially digested to be regurgitated as cud), one of which ended in a closed-off tube.
“Their anatomy indicates the fawns would never have been viable,” D’Angelo told The Independent. “Yet, they were found groomed and in a natural position, suggesting that the doe tried to care for them after delivery. The maternal instinct is very strong.”
D’Angelo said he suspects the fawns were likely delivered stillborn — but the mere fact that they were delivered at all is a scientific first.
What’s the strangest animal you’ve ever seen?