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Rare two-headed turtle hatches at Massachusetts nesting site

The pair have been in the care of a wildlife hospital for just over two weeks, and they continue to be bright and active.

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A rare two-headed turtle recently hatched on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, according to a local wildlife hospital and education center.

The Cape Wildlife Center shared on its social media pages Sunday afternoon that the diamondback terrapin hatched from a protected nesting site in Barnstable and was brought to the hospital by members of the Barnstable Natural Resources Department.

The hatchling has a condition known as bicephaly, a rare anomaly that can occur from both genetic and environmental factors that influence the embryo during development.

Similar to conjoined twins, the turtles share parts of their body and also have some that are independent. In this case, they have two heads and six legs.

Both sides of the turtle were very alert and active when the hatchling was admitted to the Cape Wildlife Center, and both sides continue to be bright and active in just over two weeks of hospital care.

"They are eating, swimming, and gaining weight each day. It is impossible to get inside the heads of these two, but it appears that they work together to navigate their environment," the Cape Wildlife Center wrote.

Animals with bicephaly don't always survive very long or have a good quality of life, but Cape Wildlife officials said the hatchling has given them reason to be optimistic.

So far, X-rays have revealed that the hatchling has two spines that fuse further down the body. Workers at the hospital observed that the heads have shown control of three legs each while moving and swimming.

Related video: 600-pound leatherback sea turtle rescued, released on Cape Cod

A barium study revealed that each head has its own gastrointestinal tract. The right side appears to be slightly more developed, but both sides are eating and digesting food.

A supervised deep-water swim test showed that each side of the hatchling can coordinate swimming so that it can come to the surface and breathe when needed.

"There is still so much to learn about them and our next step is to try and get them a CT scan when they are a little bit bigger, which would provide more information on what internal structures they share," the Cape Wildlife Center wrote.