This week in animal oddities, we’re looking at (and possibly turning away quickly from) the world’s first recorded conjoined monitor lizards and a piglet born with a human face and some other odd features. (Be forewarned – the piglet pictures are graphic)
The conjoined lizards were twin Quince monitor lizards found dead inside an egg at the Cologne Zoo in Germany. The egg was discovered in June of 2009 but the news was kept hidden until a reptile expert finally reported it in the December issue of the journal Herpatology Notes.
While there have been cases of conjoined twins in other reptile species, this was the first known occurrence for the rare Quince monitor lizards, so why was it kept secret? Perhaps because the lizards were brother-and-sister and the pair had another dead and deformed hatchling a few months later, according to Mona van Schingen, a reptile expert at the University of Cologne and co-author of the report.
Was this some kind of strange breeding experiment? Results of a secret industrial accident? Each lizard had a well-developed body but their heads and abdomens were fused and their internal organs were visible.
The poor little piglet with the human face was born late in a litter of 19 on a farm in China but died soon after birth. If those human features weren’t scary enough, the piglet had what looks like a human penis on its forehead. The owner said he had hoped to turn the pig into a tourist attraction (or maybe a series called Chinese Horror Story: Pigman Show) but the mother rejected the piglet and it refused to eat on its own.
What could have caused the deformity? Some experts say the appendage and facial deformity suggests cyclopia, a rare birth defect where there’s one eye in the middle of the face and a disruption in the forebrain-dividing process in the embryo.
These animal deformities – whatever the “probable cause” – are on the rise worldwide and should be studied further.