Two headed tortoise

by Suw on May 31, 2003

In South Africa recently was born a two headed tortoise. It seems that the tortoise is doing well, eating with both of its mouths and generally acting tortoisy. Unfortunately, one head seems to operate the front pair of legs, and the other head operates the back pair, which makes for a grand total of going nowhere when the tortoise is panicked.

Now, the BBC piece left it there, but don’t you think this begs a few questions? Like, has the tortoise’s nervous system been split in two with one head getting the front half and the other head getting the back half? Or have the heads simply apportioned responsibility for different sectors of one nervous system?

Something like either of those two scenarios has to have happened because if you had both heads controlling the same part of the body then you could end up with some bizarre mental fracas going on with both heads trying to get the same leg to do different things, for example.

And what happens if one head wants to go in a different direction to the other head? Or if they argue?

I don’t know much about the physiology of two-headed tortoises, but I find myself strangely curious.

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