Two-Headed Sea Turtle Struggling to Crawl Discovered on South Carolina Beach

Researchers were shocked to discover a two-headed loggerhead sea turtle hatchling on a beach in South Carolina on Saturday.

The turtle, discovered about 45 miles outside of Charleston in Edisto Beach State Park, was discovered crawling out of its hatching nest in the sand, according to the South Carolina State Parks' Facebook post.

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A survey crew in charge of keeping track of how many eggs hatch said that the turtle had caught their eye, for obvious reasons.

In counting the empty nests, "On occasions (we) also find live hatchlings," the park wrote in its post. "This past Wednesday, patrollers and volunteers found three alive loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings. ... One hatchling in particular stood out because it had two heads!"

The marine researchers fear the turtle does not have a good chance of survival but decided not to intervene in the natural process, and released it into the ocean along with the others.

According to the Charlotte Observer, the loggerhead sea turtle program has been at the Edisto Beach State Park since 1982, and according to the Facebook page, the beach averages about 80 nests every season.

And the presence of two-headed turtles on South Carolina beaches is not particularly uncommon. In 2019, a similar turtle was found and released into the ocean on Hilton Head Island. State officials said they see up to two genetic mutations in sea turtles per year, according to the Observer.

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However, as is expected of the most recently found turtle, the chances of any of the mutated turtles surviving to adulthood are slim.

According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, loggerhead turtles in the United States are listed as threatened under the U.S. Federal Endangered Species Act, which means they are likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. Internationally, loggerheads are listed as vulnerable.

It is the human presence on beaches and in oceans that threatens the loggerhead turtles most, the Conservancy writes. Thousands of sea turtles hatch every year on the beaches in the southeastern United States and it's "estimated one in 1,000 to 10,000 will survive to adulthood."

Erin Weeks of the state's Marine Resources Division told McClatchy News that in 2020, "staff and volunteers documented 5,562 nests on SC beaches, yielding an estimated 240,000 emerged hatchlings. Currently, we're at 4906 nests for the 2021 season. In 2019, we documented 8795 nests, the highest count since we started keeping records in the 1970s."

Newsweek reached out to the Sea Turtle Conservatory for additional comment.

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A two-headed loggerhead sea turtle was found on a beach in South Carolina and released into the ocean by scientists. Above, newborn loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) swim in the sea after breaking through their eggshells at a beach in Kyparissia, southwest Greece, on September 23, 2019. WILL VASSILOPOULOS/AFP via Getty Images