Two-headed snake charms Chilliwack

The two-and-a-half-year-old snake is extremely rare due to her polycephaly: the condition of being born with more than one head.

At two-and-a-half, she’s not quite like others her age. Noticeably small, she’s less than half the size of her peers and has an odd way of moving, bobbing from side to side as though she doesn’t know where to go.

But it’s her second head that’s the most notable difference.

Named after one of three Greek Gorgons with poisonous snakes in place of hair, Medusa, the gold dust motley corn snake may not turn gazers to stone, but she is a head-turner.

Owned by business partners Darcie Stiller and Amber Quiring, Medusa has been with the pair since birth. However, she’s been living in their downtown pet shop, the Reptile Room, since it opened Sept. 1.

”Amber was incredibly excited about the two heads,” says Stiller, recalling the day Medusa was born. “But I was a bit more reserved,” she continues. “I had seen this once before, and that one only lived three days out of egg. I got excited when she hit six months, I really believed she would survive. She’s like one in a million.”

Medusa’s condition is called dicephalism, which is a form of polycephaly: the condition of having more than one head.

“To put it simply, (she’s) an example of conjoined twins,” explains Dr. Mike Geen, a veterinarian at Coastal Rivers Pet Hospital. “Within a single fertilized egg, the cells undergo repeated divisions (that) would normally lead to two separate embryos, (or) identical twins. If the timing of cell division is off, it can lead to a conjoined twin.”

Dicephalic reptiles are rare, Geen continues, but they’re more commonly reported than in mammals and birds, particularly with snakes, turtles, and tortoises. He says anecdotal estimates range from 1 in every 1,000-10,000 captive snakes being born or hatching with two heads.

Neurologically speaking, a snake brain is somewhat rudimentary, meaning it’s unlikely Medusa would’ve survived had she been born in the wild.

“Her jaw doesn’t open like a normal snake’s would,” Stiller adds. “Her bottom jaw can’t separate (horizontally) because the other head’s there.” And as such, Medusa’s feed can never be increased in size. “Normally you increase the prey size once there’s no food lump anymore, but we can’t do that with her. Chronologically, she’s an adult, but she’s being fed on a baby schedule ,” explains Stiller as she cradles Medusa in her hands.

Dr. Geen agrees. “Having two-heads means two-brains competing to control one body, which would make it very difficult to co-ordinate normal movement required for hunting, and escaping and would likely predispose the snake to being taken by a predator.”

The average life span of a wild corn snake is only about eight years, but, snakes born in captivity can live into their late teens, or 20s. “I read a story about a conjoined snake that not only bred several healthy clutches, but lived until she was more than 18,” adds Quiring.

“As long as there are no developmental abnormalities to the internal organs,” says Geen, “two-headed reptiles can live a happy life.”

And that’s exactly what Stiller and Quiring have in store for their two-headed snake. While Medusa’s a definite attraction, spending her days wowing customers and passers by, Medusa has a life-long home. “We’ll never sell her, she’ll stay with us forever,” says Stiller.

 

Just Posted

Chilliwack RCMP find chemicals and cannabis extract in illicit lab

Marijuana may be legal but altering it using chemicals violates the Cannabis Act

Chilliwack RCMP seek suspects in rash of poppy donation box thefts

Incidents at four different locations in Sardis in the days leading up to Remembrance Day

German-born British Columbian warns against a ‘yes’ vote on proportional representation

Agassiz realtor Freddy Marks says PR in his home country shows party elites can never be voted out

Train ride at Minter store not part of this year’s festive fun

Tough decision made to stop seasonal train in its tracks after injury suffered by Brian Minter

Players Guild challenges Chilliwack residents to solve classic Agatha Christie whodunit mystery

The Chilliwack Players Guild is performing Murder on the Nile from Nov. 22 to Dec. 2

Trudeau offers to help Pacific islands face climate change impact

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the leaders from the Pacific island nations on Saturday during the APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea

Canada defeats Germany 29-10 in repechage, moves step closer to Rugby World Cup

Hong Kong needs a bonus-point win over Canada — scoring four or more tries — while denying the Canadians a bonus point

Avalanche Canada in desperate need of funding

The organization provides avalanche forecasting for an area larger than the United Kingdom

5 B.C. cities break temperature records

Parts of B.C. remain warm, at 10 C, while others feeling chilly

B.C. teacher’s Amazing Race takes students on Canada-wide adventure

Agassiz high school students say they had the experience of a life time

Don’t sign USMCA until LGBTQ language excised, U.S. lawmakers urge Trump

The trade agreement, forged after 13 months of tense negotiations between Canada and the U.S. is scheduled for Nov. 30

US official: US intel says prince ordered Khashoggi killing

Vice-President Mike Pence told reporters that ‘the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity.’

Canada’s health system commendable overall but barriers to care remain: UN

The United Nations says Canada’s health care system is “commendable” overall but vulnerable groups still face barriers to quality care.

Most Read