CAPE COD - At first glance the small feeding tank appears to hold a couple of diamondback terrapin hatchlings in the brightly lit exam room at the Birdsey Cape Wildlife Center. The animal is a threatened species in Massachusetts.
Look closer and this particular turtle is much rarer, it was born with two heads and six legs, called bicephalic. Center veterinarian Pria Patel has been monitoring the terrapin since it arrived two weeks ago - and so far it is doing well.
A barium study showed the animal has two independent gastrointestinal systems to nourish both sides. The heads work independently for coming to the surface to breathe. Staff at the center says it is feeding well, primarily on blood worms and food pellets.
The animal came from a "head start" nest at Sandy Neck in West Barnstable. A "head start" nest is one researchers move because it is in a dangerous location. Once the eggs hatch they are sent out to a variety of places where the animals are cared for over the winter and then released in late spring.
This rare specimen will continue to be watched and when it reaches four weeks old the Center's crew hopes to get a CT scan to learn more about the animal's circulatory system and more information about the two tiny terrapins sharing one shell.
More: These are some of the most endangered animal species in each state, from sea turtles to dragonflies
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This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Diamondback terrapin with two heads, six legs in Massachusetts