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Oldest Known Two-Headed Tortoise Is About To Reach Its 23rd Birthday

When I was a kid, I remember walking through a Ripley's Believe It or Not museum. Since I was at an impressionable age, what we saw all seemed pretty believable to me but my parents were a lot more skeptical.

It's hard to gauge whether I'd feel like them now because I honestly don't remember most of what I saw in there. However, what does stick out in my mind was a two-headed sheep that they had on display. I suppose that if there was anything I had a hard time believing, it's that such a creature could exist.

Of course, I now know how possible it really is and why I never saw any two-headed animals outside of that museum. And the realities I've since become aware of make one specimen all the more rare and special.

When an animal has two heads, it has a condition known as polycephaly.

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According to the San Antonio Express-News, it's possible for polycephaly to occur in any species but it's most often seen in snakes and turtles.

When two twin embryos fail to separate as they develop, there's a good chance that they'll result in a two-headed creature.

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But even when it comes to species that most commonly develop polycephaly, it's not often that we see two-headed animals.

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And as Australia's ABC News reported, that has less to do with how rare they are than with the fact that such animals tend not to live very long.

In many cases, this is because their condition makes it difficult to escape predators and to forage for food.

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It is only through special care that two-headed creatures have any real chance of survival and it's an uphill battle even when such care exists.

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For instance, the San Antonio Express-News reported that a fresh water river turtle named Thelma and Louise lived for just a year at the San Antonio zoo after it was born in 2013.

This reality is unfortunate but it also makes the two-headed tortoise we see here all the more special.

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This is Janus, a Greek tortoise that was born at the Museum of Natural History in Geneva, Switzerland.

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As The Daily Mail reported, the tortoise has survived since September 3, 1997, which makes it less than a month shy of 23 years old at the time of this writing.

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As far as anyone can tell, this makes Janus the world's oldest living two-headed tortoise.

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As The Daily Mail reported, Janus has grown to become the Swiss museum's mascot and one of its biggest attractions.

h/t: San Antonio Express-News, The Daily Mail

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