‘Miracle’ two-headed turtle stuns docs – and heads have different personalities

A two-headed turtle has beat the odds of survival in a rare case which has baffled doctors.

The mutant reptile was discovered on a Malaysian island, leaving one volunteer under the impression that she was seeing double.

Project manager Abidah Zaaba said she stumbled across what looked like an ordinary nest before taking a second look.

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She took the "miracle hatchling" back to her team members at Lang Tengah Turtle Watch, who have since said the turtle has two oddly behaving heads.

Principal officer Seh Ling Long said part of what made it so remarkable was the fact it had survived.

She said: “We encounter this very rarely. This is my first time encountering a two-headed turtle that is still alive.

“Congenital malformations can lead to embryonic mortality as aberrant phenotypes may be incompatible with life.

“To put things in perspective, we have encountered only a few double-headed hatchlings out of 88,719 eggs incubated in the hatchery between 2016 and 2022.”

As for what caused the mutation, there are several potential factors.

“Genetic and/or environmental factors can cause congenital malformations,” said Seh Ling.

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“The former may include mutations, chromosomal aberrations and inbreeding effects. The latter may include temperature and humidity.”

Both heads have responded differently to external stimuli, but the right head seems to be the dominant one so far.

Whichever head is calling the shots, however, the turtle now faces a tough fight for continued survival.

“Healthy sea turtles have a low survival rate, with an estimated one out of 1,000 hatchlings surviving into adulthood,” said Seh Ling.

“To the best of my knowledge, it is rare to see abnormal turtles in the adult stage.

“The last one encountered by another organisation in the vicinity was in 2014. It only lived for about two months.”

The two-headed turtle has now been sent to a nearby Turtle Conservation and Information Centre run by the government’s Department of Fisheries.

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