The story behind the two headed dolphin in Turkey
The ocean is known to be the home of a variety of different types of marine vertebrates, fishes, reptiles and marine mammals, just to name a few and it encompasses 97 percent of the Earth’s water, yet 95 percent of the deep still remains unexplored. That being said, the possibility of finding unusual varieties of species is definitely feasible.
Among the most fascinating of deep-sea creatures are marine mammals, being adapted to aquatic life even though they breathe air similar to animals dwelling on land. We know them as altruistic animals, helping injured individuals and living in groups, typically raising calves together. Most of us have probably been to a theme park and have viewed a dolphin show to know just how extremely playful they are and that they can jump 20 feet out of the water. We also learned from our science class that dolphins sleep with only one of their eyes closed while the other looks out for predators. But, have you ever heard of a two headed dolphin?
1 Rare two headed dolphin washed ashore in Turkey
On August 4, 2014, Tugrul Metin, a gym teacher having his vacation on a beach in Dikili near the western city of Izmir in Turkey, found a carcass of conjoined baby dolphins along the Aegean coast. The conjoined dolphins had two heads with two eyes on both heads and only one blowhole. Because of his intriguing discovery, photos taken by Metin of the two-headed dolphin instantly caught public attention worldwide. The next day after it was discovered, it was quickly removed from the beach and buried by the local authority.
However, on August 6, it was resurfaced for further examination of its remains. The corpse was then approximately a week old with its head already partially exposed due to the advanced stage of decomposition. It was brought to
2 Istanbul for more in-depth analysis
Polycephaly among marine mammals
Polycephaly is an unusual condition wherein an individual holds more than one head. The conjoined dolphins were identified as dicephalic parapagus, meaning, they only have one body carrying two heads. There have been numerous reported incidents of this condition among animals, even in humans but the case of the two headed dolphin in Turkey is only the fifth known case of its kind in the dolphin family and one of the only 10 reports of conjoined cetaceans so far.
The frequency of this condition among marine mammals is still unknown since conjoined twins commonly die before they could even get out of their mother’s womb.
3 Conjoined twins’ unlikelihood to survive
With regards to their reproductive biology, whales and dolphins typically carry a single baby. Consequently, they are equipped with just a pair of nipples to feed their offspring. With double the mouth to feed, it is likely that either or both of the needs of the calves will be overlooked. Moreover, even when the calves manage to grow as adults it would be impossible for them to get the air they need from the surface of the water since most cases of conjoined twins among cetaceans have their attachments along their stomachs or backs that their blowholes are pointing to the sides instead of upwards to make it easier for them to breathe above the water.
In the case of the two headed dolphin, further analysis of the body length of the carcass which is roughly the size of a newborn bottlenose dolphin led researchers to conclude that it had completed the fetal development and had been delivered but failed to survive due to its inability to surface and breathe at once.
4 Marine pollution leading to bizarre mutations of marine life
Eighty percent of marine pollution is caused by substances and chemicals coming from land. Chemicals and other toxic wastes thrown into the ocean extensively contribute to the devastation of marine biodiversity. When harmful substances enter the food web through planktons and benthos animals which are the primary food source of many marine animals, it can cause diseases and mutations.
When the news of the Fukushima disaster in Japan spiraled worldwide, many feared that the nuclear calamity will cause various alterations in the marine life. Particularly, last 2014, the report on the two headed whale in Baja, California gained public attention after many skeptics voiced out their concern on water contamination from the Fukushima disaster which, according to them, driven the two whales to mutate and fuse together.
However, studies support the claim that the Fukushima has nothing to do with the condition of the two headed whale. In fact, it’s not even caused by mutation; rather, it is another case of conjoined twinning. Additionally, increased risk of conjoined twinning has not been shown to have any relationship with low dose radiation. Conjoined twins among marine organisms are just as uncommon as it is in humans but do happen naturally in the wild.
In the case of the two headed dolphin found in Turkey, pollutant contamination were taken into account in the further studies on the tissue samples collected on the skin and muscle as well as the teeth of the specimen but no data report on this has been made available yet.
5 Other two headed creatures of the sea
Various similar occurrences of having a single body with two heads had been observed across species of marine wildlife.
In 2011, the first record of a live two headed bull shark was reported in the Gulf of Mexico by a fisherman who was dumbfounded upon opening the uterus of an adult bull shark.
In 2013, a man who was caring for an aquarium checked up on the pregnant female rays when he noticed some of the animals were giving birth. What he didn’t expect to see was a stillborn ray with two heads.
In 2014, scientists discovered the bodies of two conjoined gray whale calves afloat in Ojo de Liebre in Baja, California. The conjoined twins measured about seven to ten feet in length which is remarkably shorter than the usual 12- to 16-foot length of fully grown gray whale calves.