Two-Headed Albino Milk Snake Born in Central Florida

by on March 4th, 2011
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It’s something you would expect to see in a display at Ripley’s Believe It or Not: a snake with two heads. As a herpetologist and biologist, Daniel Parker never expected this rare occurrence to hatch from a clutch of eggs incubating on his table. Parker is a field biologist for University of Central Florida and a guide of wildlife tours for his company, Sunshine Serpents. Over the has seen many unusual creatures. However, none have been as strange as the snake that emerged from an egg amongst a clutch in the incubator on his table. An albino of any species is a very rare occurrence, whether bred at home or in the wild. But a Albino with two heads, well, that is almost unheard of.

The condition, called bicephalism, is an occurrence that only happens around 1 in 10,000 births. Parker and other scientists think that it may be easier for snakes to thrive with two heads and they may have a better survival rate than other bicephalic animals.

“In fact, bicephalic snakes have been documented to live as long as 20 years,” said Parker.

Several months ago, the eggs were laid by a female Honduran milk snake that was albino. Albinos are missing all dark pigmentation in the skin. In milk snakes the albino trait makes their coloration appear as glow in the dark shades of red, orange, and white. Even albino individuals with merely one head are so striking in color that they usually attract attention. However, as Parker dug through the moss substrate in his incubation container to find his brightly colored hatch-ling snakes, the first thing he noticed was not the colors. Out of the moss poked two heads. Parker retrieved what he originally thought was two of the baby snakes, however, what he held in his hands had just one body with the two heads attached.

“I did a double take,” said Parker. “I couldn’t believe what I was looking at.”

Most of the two-headed snakes documented in the past have displayed the typical coloration seen in the species in the wild. For this snake to be both two-headed and albino was rare and extraordinary.

“This might be the most beautiful two-headed snake that has ever existed,” added Parker.

“With two different brains giving commands to one body,” said Parker, “it must be a confusing existence. This snake certainly would not be able to survive in the wild.”

Albino’s, in general, seem to struggle to survive in the wild. The lack of dark pigmentation makes them more vulnerable than in their natural state.

Parker also states, “Sometimes the snake doesn’t know which way to go.” He seems to think that eventually one of the heads, and it’s brain, will have to become the dominant of the two. All in all, this snake will give Parker a unique opportunity to study and document the behavior of such a creature. Among his herpetologist colleagues, it’s as if he won the scientific lotto in terms of the data he can collect.

Parker’s company, Sunshine Serpents (www.sunshineserpents.com) deals with all things involving reptiles and amphibians. They guide wildlife tours, lead educational presentations, consult and provide animals for film and TV projects, and propagate reptiles in captivity.


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