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Rare Two-Headed Copperhead Snake Found in Virginia Has Different Brains but Same Heart

For some, seeing one snake is enough to make their heart race and knees weak, so when a woman found a rare two-headed baby Eastern Copperhead in Virginia, it attracted a lot of attention.

When the woman, who asked to remain anonymous, saw the two-headed snake outside her home in Woodbridge, Virginia, she contacted the Virginia Wildlife Management and Control. Owner Rich Perry posted a video of the snake on the company’s Facebook page and told WPIX that the reaction has been crazy.

After the Virginia Wildlife Management and Control confirmed the woman was seeing a two-headed snake, the snake was turned over to the Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro, located about 120 miles from where it was found.

The snake arrived on Thursday and Dr. Ernesto Domínguez, who is a fan of venomous snakes, examined the newest patient. In a press release, the Wildlife Center of Virginia shared that the left head appears to be more dominant than the right. Generally, it’s more active and responsive to stimulus.

Radiographs were conducted on the snake, which revealed that the two-headed snake has two tracheas, commonly known as the windpipe, but the left is more developed than the right. The snake also had two esophaguses, although in this case, the right is more developed than the left. The two heads share the same heart and only have one set of lungs.

“Based on the anatomy, it would be better for the right head to eat, but it may be a challenge since the left head appears more dominant,” the Wildlife Center of Virginia explained.

Two-headed snakes are extremely rare and usually do not live very long. A state herpetologist at the Wildlife Center of Virginia will continue to monitor the snake and if it survives, it will most likely be placed in an educational facility.

two-headed snake virginia A rare two-headed Eastern Copperhead snake was found in a woman's backyard in Virginia. Virginia Wildlife Management and Control

While two-headed snakes are extremely rare, they aren’t unheard of and one named Dudley Duplex even managed to get on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in the 1950s. Dudley Duplex lived for nearly seven years at the San Diego Zoo.  

Another two-headed snake that lived in captivity at Arizona State University survived for almost 17 years.

In September 2017, Tanee Janusz’s friend found a two-headed Western Rat Snake and as someone who’s on the board of her local Master Naturalist Program, she kept it as a pet named Filo and Gumbo.

Janusz previously told Newsweek that they helped change her Louisiana community’s perspective.  

“The best thing is just letting people look at them,” Janusz said. “Their exceptionality makes people lower their guard down a little bit and makes them more open to talking about them.”

She explained that she largely cares for the two-headed snake like she would care for an ordinary snake, aside from ensuring that their water bowl isn’t too deep so one head doesn’t drag the other into the water.

The saying may be “two heads are better than one,” but when it comes to snakes, having an extra head causes several life-threatening problems. Gordon Burghardt, a herpetologist at the University of Tennessee, told National Geographic that snakes with two heads will often fight over which head will swallow the prey. Meaning, that feeding takes a good deal of time and leaves them vulnerable to predators.

Two heads also make it difficult for snakes to decide which way to go and they’re unable to respond quickly to an attack.  

Similarly to human Siamese twins, two-headed snakes occur when a developing embryo begins to split into identical twins but stops part way. Also like humans, snakes can be separated at various points and the more separation there is, the more the heads can act independently of each other.