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Conjoined turtles with two heads learn how to swim and survive

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The hatchling, which has two heads and three legs on each side, came from Barnstable protected nesting (Pic. Courtesy bostonglobe.com)

In what can be described as a freak case, a rare two-headed turtle – diamond terrapin -- is being looked after at the New England Wildlife Center in Massachusetts, US. The Center’s Chief Executive Officer, Katrina Bergman, called the hatchling “nothing we’ve ever seen before”.

Named as Mary-Kate and Ashley, the twins created a buzz on their arrival according to a report in bostonglobe.com. Bergman said: “We were excited, aghast, and concerned. We didn’t know if they would be able to eat on their own.”

Fortunately, that was not so as their weight has increased from 6.5 grams on arrival on September 22 to 9 grams. Bergman observed: “They’ve grown up to three inches now. They’re eating and gaining weight.”

The hatchling, which has two heads and three legs on each side, came from Barnstable protected nesting. On examining them, the veterinary staff discovered their condition similar to conjoined twins – while sharing body parts they still had parts which are independent.

The staff wondered as to how they would swim as lack of coordination could drown them. But that wasn’t so. Bergman disclosed: “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.”

As yet the sex of the hatchling is not known.

By doing CT scans, the staff of the institution is keen to know about how their circulatory system works along with the working of other internal organs.

As for the future of the twins, it is uncertain. “Unfortunately, the prognosis is definitely questionable,” Bergman said. They will most probably not be released in the wild anytime soon.

The diamondback turtles come under the threatened species category in Massachusetts. The adult females can grow up to 10 inches and weigh 1 kilogram.