An Extremely Rare Two-Headed Snake Survives Against All Odds
An extremely rare black rat snake with two heads has astounded experts by surviving to almost 17 years old, exceeding the life expectancy of its regular counterparts in the wild. The snake, found in 2005 by a boy in his yard in the small town of Delta, Missouri, has grown to five feet long, despite sharing a single slithering body. It is estimated that such a survival rate is one in a hundred million, according to Steve Allain, a council member of the British Herpetological Society.
The Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center has taken care of the snake since it was found. The caretakers have faced several challenges in keeping the snake alive due to the snake’s unique anatomy. Unlike a normal snake, the conjoined spine of the two-headed snake makes it difficult for them to swallow anything larger than a small, young mouse. The caretakers feed the two heads separately by covering each head with a drinking cup to stimulate their natural instincts and provide some mental enrichment.
In the wild, the snake would have had a very slim chance of surviving. Hatchlings with such anomalies often do not survive, and the “twins” have a hard time deciding which way to go. Their slow reaction to danger would make them easy prey for predators such as hawks, skunks, or raccoons. Even in captivity, survival rates for conjoined snakes are low.
Snakes can be born with two heads when an individual egg is fertilized and starts to divide into twins but does not fully separate. In this case, the developing embryo split partially at the top but failed to separate further down, as shown in an x-ray of the snake.
According to Paul Rowley, a herpetologist at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, it is impossible to calculate the odds of such a unique snake surviving so long. While there are challenges in keeping the two-headed snake alive, it continues to be an amazing wonder of nature. Its survival is a testament to the resilience of these fascinating creatures, and the caretakers are hopeful that it will continue to thrive in their care.