Rare two-headed deer found in Minnesota forest
Tuesday, May 15, 2018, 13:23 - It's not uncommon to see deer roaming the forest, but a mushroom hunter in Minnesota recently stumbled across one that's never been seen before.
The deceased, two-headed fawn is being called "amazing and extremely rare" by deer ecologist Gino D'Angelo of the University of Georgia, who studied the animal.
"We can't even estimate the rarity of this," he added in a statement.
"Of the tens of millions of fawns born annually in the US, there are probably abnormalities happening in the wild we don't even know about."
The fawn - or, more accurately fawns - are conjoined twins. They're the first of their kind known to haven been carried to term. Scientific literature between 1671 and 2006 only documents 19 cases of conjoined twins in wildlife, and only 5 have been deer.
Conjoined twins seems to be more common in domesticated animals like sheep and cats, but the exact causes of the phenomenon are not fully understood.
Researchers placed the fawns' lungs in water and they sunk to the bottom, confirming they never breathed air and the animal was stillborn.
The fawns had two gastrointestinal tracts and hearts but one liver was malformed, indicating they would not have been able to survive.
"Their anatomy indicates the fawns would never have been viable," D'Angelo said.
"Yet, they were found groomed and in a natural position, suggesting that the doe tried to care for them after delivery. The maternal instinct is very strong."
A paper on the findings has been published in The American Midland Naturalist.
Photos courtesy of the University of Georgia