A dead two-headed deer found in a US forest is believed to be the first case of the species conjoined at birth.
A mushroom gatherer found the two-headed white-tailed deer fawn in a Minnesota forest in 2016, according to an article published in science journal American Midland Naturalist.
The deer were reported to be “clean, dry, and freshly dead”. No other deer were found in the area and the two-headed animal was given to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
It’s believed the twins were stillborn, and 3D simulations of their skeletons show the pair had separate necks with no connection at the head but connected at the vertebrae. They had separate hearts, esophagi and forestomachs but shared a liver.
One of the authors of the paper, University of Georgia researcher Gino D’Angelo, told UGA Today there had been only 19 cases of conjoined twins among domestic wildlife from 1671 to 2006, and two cases of white-tailed deer previously reported were found in utero.
He added the fawns were “found groomed” suggesting “the doe tried to care for them after delivery”.
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Co-author Louis Cornicelli described the find to Fox 9 as “special”.
“Animals that are stillborn, they don’t last long on the landscape because of scavengers,” Mr Cornicelli said.
“In our case, we were lucky that he found the fawn before it was eaten and turned it into [the] DNR.”
The Minnesota DNR will have the conjoined fawns on display at its headquarters while the University of Minnesota Veterinary Anatomy Museum hosts a skeletal display.