A two-headed dolphin has been found in Turkey, exciting scientists and laypersons alike worldwide.
The two-headed dolphin was discovered washing up on shore, deceased, in the waters off Turkey's west coast by a man out for a walk. Tugrul Metin, a sports teacher, called police to report the dead, deformed animal, less than three-and-a-half feet in length. After authorities arrived, they hauled the corpse to a laboratory for examination.
Biologists believe the unusually-deformed marine mammal was formed through a process similar to that seen in conjoined human twins. It is believed to be about twelve months of age, and one of the heads may not have been fully-developed.
"I noticed the dolphin in the sea and watched as it washed on to the beach. I couldn't take it in at first - I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me - I've never even heard about a dolphin like this let alone seen one with my own eyes - I was completely shocked," Metin said.
In addition to two heads, the animal also possessed an extra blowhole. Like the extra head, this orifice for breathing was not fully-formed, and likely not completely functional.
Conjoined twins are formed from a pair of embryos, which fuse together during development in the embryo. In humans, this defect occurs in between one in 200,000 and one in 50,000 births. About half of these births are stillborn, or are born with life-ending deformities. About three-quarts of all conjoined twins die before, during and soon after birth. The abnormality is more common in girls (roughly 75 percent of cases), and in Africa, as well as Southeast Asia.
Medical researchers are still uncertain about the underlying reasons behind the condition. Biologists traditionally believed the defect was set off by the incomplete division of a fertilized egg during the fission process of embryonic development. A more modern idea suggests that conjoined twins form when a pair of fertilized eggs, developing into healthy twins, joins together. This process is caused by stem cells in each zygote searching for similar cells, bonding together.
Surgery to separate conjoined twins, in an effort to normalize their lives, can range from fairly simple procedures to complex operations. The first successful surgery to assist a pair of conjoined twins who shared a vital organ took place in 1957. The patients were a pair of boys who were born with only a single liver.
Izmir, the city where the unfortunate creature washed ashore, is the third-most populous city in Turkey, sitting on the west coast of that nation.