A group of Dutch fishermen made an unexpected and accidental find as they caught a two-headed porpoise. The strange animal was thrown back into the sea, as the team feared it would be illegal to keep it.
However, before returning it to the waters, they took a series of photos and then alerted researchers. Specialists analyzed this evidence and recently released a paper on the matter.
The Dutch fishermen were off the coast of the Netherlands, in the North Sea, when then made the surprising find. This bizarre looking creature came up as bycatch in their beam trawl net.
From the very beginning, the people onboard realized that the marine mammal was dead, and feared that it might be illegal to keep it. This would not be a causeless concern, as vaquitas, the most endangered species of marine mammals and part of the porpoise family is illegal to fish.
— SOSDolfijn (@SOSDolfijn) June 6, 2017
This Two-Headed Porpoise, One of Just Ten Ever Found
Cases of conjoined twins are extremely rare in cetaceans. In fact, this is just one of ten recorded cases with reliable sources.
A study on the matter offered further details and contextualized the event’s rarity. The paper is available in the online Journal of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam.
“The anatomy of cetaceans is strikingly different from terrestrial mammals with adaptations for living in the sea as a mammal. Much is unknown,” states Erwin Kompanje.
Part of the Erasmus MC University Medical Center, Rotterdam, Kompanje is also one of the study paper’s authors. He adds that ‘it is a shame’ that researchers could not actually get hold of the strange specimen in itself. However, he also points out the valuable information gleaned from the photos.
Kompanje explains that their unstiffened tail shows that the twins died shortly after birth. A stiff tail is necessary for swimming. The two-headed porpoise also had hairs on its upper lips, which should have fallen off. Also, it presented a flat dorsal fin, instead of a vertical one. These are all signs that the specimen was still very young.
Kompanje believes that conjoined twins could be more common than believed. But the fact that they seemingly die shortly after birth and the immensity of oceans makes it hard to detect them.
Image Source: Wikimedia