Two-Headed Snake Found in Louisiana Backyard Has Different Brains but Same Body

The snakes were found last September in a Louisiana backyard. They were likely only a day or two old because one of them still had an egg tooth—a sharp tip at the end of some snakes’ noses that helps them to get out of the shell during hatching. Tanee Janusz

They say two heads are better than one, and Tanee Janusz of Louisiana agrees. Janusz is the proud owner of a two-headed Western Rat Snake, and says the snake's uniqueness has helped those in her community become more open and understanding of the importance of wildlife.

Janusz told Newsweek she acquired her unique pet last September thanks to her position on the board for the local Master Naturalist Program. Last fall, a friend who knew of her work with the program, asked if she would be interested in having a two-headed snake that he found in his backyard. She immediately accepted the offer and named the little guys Filo and Gumbo, an homage to their New Orleans heritage.

According to Janusz, she could tell the snake was likely only a day or two old before she got them because one of them still had an egg tooth. This appendage is not really a tooth, but rather a sharp tip at the end of some snakes' nose that helps them to get out of the shell during hatching. They are a nonvenomous breed.

The two-headed deformity occurs slightly more often in snakes than other animals, but is still quite rare, happening in about one in 10,000 births, WSLS reported. The deformity results when the developing embryo does not properly separate, resulting in a snake with two heads and two brains, but one body.

Janusz said her new pets are surprisingly popular in the local community.

"In my community, it's often said that the only good snake is a dead snake" Janusz told Newsweek. "They [the community] are just very pro kill to the unknown." Janusz said these snakes are helping to change attitudes in her community and helping those who encounter them to be more open to the wonder of wildlife.

The snake has different heads and two distinct brains that share a body. Tanee Janusz

"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."

The snakes share the same digestive and respiratory tract, but Janusz said that caring for these unique pets is not very different from caring for ordinary snakes.

"The only difference is making sure that their water bowl is not too deep, as the dominant head will drag the nondominant head down into the water," Janusz explained.

Despite their odd anatomy, Janusz is confident they will have a lifespan similar to ordinary snakes of this breed—10 years in the wild and 20 to 25 years in human care.

Tanee Janusz holding her pet two-headed snake, Filo and Gumbo. Tanee Janusz