Ever feel at odds with yourself? If so, you might have some sympathy for a snake found in Florida this week that has two heads. Far from the adage “two heads are better than one,” the animal has been reported to be suffering from a conflict of interests, as each head has an independent brain and they don’t seem to always agree. The two-headed Southern black racer snake is the result of twins that failed to separate as they developed, meaning the single body is supporting the agendas of two animals.
The rare snake was captured by wildlife officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, who shared the surprising find on Facebook. They have said that the snake will need to remain in captivity as the clash of the two brains mean it has trouble making life and death decisions, which could see it eaten by a predator or repeatedly losing prey.
Reported to the FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute after it was discovered in a home in Florida, the indecisive snake has a condition called bicephaly. This is the result of two monozygotic twins, also known as identical twins, that don’t separate fully as the embryo develops. It means the two snakes share a body but have separate heads, complete with tongues and teeth.
“A rare two-headed southern black racer was recently found at a residence in Palm Harbor by Kay Rogers and family,” said the FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute on Facebook. “Both heads tongue flick and react to movement, but not always in the same way. Two-headed snakes are unlikely to survive in the wild as the two brains make different decisions that inhibit the ability to feed or escape from predators. The snake is currently being cared for and monitored by FWC staff.”
Bicephaly is more common in reptiles as they produce a large number of offspring increasing the chances of this sort of rare malformation occurring. They also leave their eggs exposed to the environment where many factors such as temperature and humidity can alter the outcome of the hatchlings. Bicephaly is also a common side effect of inbreeding snakes, but as with the black racer snake, it can happen in the wild. Usually one of the two heads will be dominant making life a little easier, but evidently the conjoined twins can sometimes butt heads, cognitively speaking.