This double-headed snake is a unique find for herpetology

The herpetology laboratory at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has been lucky enough to find a very special two-headed snake

This newborn two-headed striped snake was discovered by a neighbor while clearing brush near his lab. “I picked up a log and I wasn’t too surprised to see two little snakes, but then I realized they weren’t going very far because there were two heads,” he said.

Once Marshall realized it was a two-headed snake, he put it in a jar and contacted a local conservationist. The call led him to Dennis Ferraro, a practical assistant professor of herpetology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who happened to be doing fieldwork at the station in nearby Cedar Point. Ferraro was able to recover the snake the following day. According to Ferraro, the snake is so rare that only one in 100,000 is born.

It has two necks, which means that neither will become dominant.

Ferraro said this is only the second time he has had a two-headed snake in his lab, which he has run for more than 20 years. What makes this snake even more unique is that the split heads extend beyond the necks.

“Normally when snakes have two heads, one of them takes over,” Ferraro said. “This one has two necks, which means neither will become dominant. The two heads work independently and eat independently. This would have made it difficult for them to survive in the wild.”

There is also at least a centimeter of backbone connected to each head, before it merges into one. Although the newborn is still too small for X-rays, Ferraro plans to care for her until she is old enough for more advanced tests.

According to Ferraro, genetic mutations are common in water snakes, which has probably caused this phenomenon. The researcher is interested in finding out how his neurology works, how he has survived so long, and whether he will be able to survive with both heads.

Ferraro has spent decades pursuing his passion for wildlife conservation in Nebraska. He spends his time traveling and studying species and contributing to conservation efforts, educating state residents about animals, especially the ones people often fear. His lab houses a pair of every amphibian, turtle, and reptile native to Nebraska.

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This double-headed snake is a unique find for herpetology