Whenever reports of two-headed creatures surface, they’re usually from livestock animals. Discovering conjoined twins in the wild is understandably difficult given the high mortality rate these twins face, yet that’s exactly what happened last week off the coast of the Netherlands. Fishermen there caught a rare find last month, one that’s been described as the first of its kind. On May 30, 2017, a trawler crew hauled in its catch in the North Sea to discover a two-headed porpoise caught in their nets.
The crew of the boat thought it might be illegal to keep such a specimen, so they tossed it back into the brine shortly after it was caught – but not before snapping a few pictures, of course. The pictures clearly show poor beast sporting one tail, one dorsal fin, and two pectoral fins like any other porpoise – but also two fully-formed heads with four eyes and two blow holes.
Only nine other cases of conjoined porpoises and dolphins are known to science. Cases of conjoined twins in wild mammals are extremely rare, and these porpoise twins are even rare because they were actually born. Usually, conjoined animal twins die in utero due to the complications they cause and are discovered during dissection. This case is made even more unique due to the particular type of conjoinment these porpoises share known as parapagus dicephalus, or having two fully-grown heads. There are only three other known cases of parapagus dicephalus in marine mammals.
Unfortunately, the porpoises were already dead when the fisherman pulled them aboard. Such a condition is surely not survivable in the wild. A team of Dutch biologists studied the picture of the porpoises and published a case study, noting that the porpoises were most likely newborn based on the flaccid dorsal fin and hair on the upper lip. Kudos to the brave porpoise momma that pushed these poor twins out, though. Ouch.