For the first time, conjoined twins have been found among deer. Scientists are studying stillborn conjoined twin fawns found in a forest in Minnesota to learn how they were carried to term by the doe.
Conjoined twin fawns have also been found before but they were still in utero and were stillborn.
Conjoined Twin Fawns
The two-headed deer was found by a mushroom hunter near the Mississippi River in Freeburg, Minnesota in May 2016. They were clean and dry and seemed to have just died. The hunter then took the specimen to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources where the author of the study, Gino D'Angelo, previously worked.
In order for a necropsy to be performed on the body of the fawns, the remains were frozen to keep them in good condition. Scientists then completed a necropsy on the remains along with a 3-D CT scan and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at the University of Minnesota's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
D'Angelo of the University of Georgia calls the latest finding amazing and extremely rare, considering that the twin fawns were delivered by the mother.
Findings Regarding The Twin Fawns
After the tests, researchers saw that the fawns had two separate necks and heads although they shared the same body. Everything else about their body seemed normal: the fur, the heads, the legs, and the spot pattern on their necks. D'Angelo called the spot pattern "almost perfect."
The necropsy of the fawns also showed that both shared a malformed liver, had extra spleens and gastrointestinal tracts, along with two hearts that had a single pericardial sac.
Researchers ran lab tests to confirm that the fawns were indeed stillborn and never breathed air the moment they were delivered. D'Angelo says that the fawns would not have been able to live. Since the hunter found the remains of the fawns cleaned and in a natural position, it means that the doe that delivered the fawns tried to care for them before realizing they were stillborn.
Conjoined twins are rare among wild animals and are more common among humans. Between 1671 and 2006, only 19 cases of confirmed conjoined twins have been found in the wild, five of those cases have been deer. Two cases of conjoined twins have been found among white-tailed deer, the same species as the fawns, but were both fetuses and were not delivered.