If you think finding a four-leaf clover is rare, imagine finding a two-headed snake in your garden! A woman in Virginia spotted a two-headed copperhead in her yard, and now the snake is becoming a sensation.
An Unusual Find
Dicephalic or two-headed animals are relatively uncommon. They occur when an embryo ceases splitting partway through separating identical twins. The degrees of separation may vary from duplicated heads to multiple duplicated organs. In the scope of the animal kingdom, snakes have some of the highest rates of dicephalic birth.
In the case of the two-week-old copperhead, it is lucky to have survived long enough to be picked up and brought into captivity. With two functioning brains, the snake is continuously at war with itself, with each head trying to lead the body toward a different task.
Are Two Heads Better Than One?
As if two heads with different ideas of who should be in charge wasn’t complicated enough, the two halves of the front of the snake are not created equally. Each head has its own trachea and esophagus, but the left head is more dominant than the right, while the right head is better suited to swallowing.
Each head can bite and inject venom into its prey. Beyond the split, the dicephalic twins share one heart and one set of lungs. The two heads are able to move the body, but the two brains seem to argue over who has the wheel.
A New Home
In the wild, two-headed snakes are a danger to themselves, often leading to an untimely death. With the two brains working at odds to decide on a target, attack prey, or move in a particular direction, it leaves itself open to predators. Worse, sometimes one head may attack the other, mistaking it for prey.
The young snake has been moved to a temporary home at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. Its rescuers hope to eventually move the little guy into a zoo where it can live out a long and healthy life in captivity, where survival rates are significantly higher than in the wild.