Last month, off the coast of the Netherlands, a group of Dutch fishermen hauled on board a very strange creature. The porpoise, which is a familiar sight in the North Sea, suffered the incredible phenomenon called “partial twinning” which made the creature grow two heads on a single body.
A Rare Case of Twinning Cetaceans
The phenomenon is extremely rare, with only 9 previous documented cases of twinning cetaceans which include whales and dolphins. Unfortunately, the fishermen feared it was illegal to carry it on board, even if the animal had died. Instead, they took pictures of the fascinating specimen and threw it back in the water. Little did they now, it was truly a historical discovery.
The pictures circulated all over Netherlands before getting in the hands of Erwin Kompanje, a curator at the National History Museum in Rotterdam. Kompanje has studied cetaceans for 20 years and the creature would have made for an extremely interesting subject. He was crushed to know the fishermen did not keep the body but with the help of the photos, he managed to write a paper in Deinsea, explaining the phenomenon. Kompanje argued that perhaps the zygote only partially split during the early stages of development or the embryonic discs fused in the womb. Furthermore, the twins were both male and because of the abnormal developments, they surely died shortly after birth.
In the New Scientist, Kompanje explained that “there is simply not enough room in the body of the female to give room to more than one fetus” so even normal twinning is a rare occurrence.
The fishermen’s discovery has now become the first documented case of conjoined twin harbor porpoises. Although examining the body is not possible now, adding new knowledge to the case sheds more light on this strange phenomenon.
Image source: inverse.com