Officials conducted lab tests on the fawns, which revealed the two had separate head-neck regions which rejoined along the spine. The only other conjoined deer fawns ever found were in utero, and a press release notes that only 19 instances have been found in wildlife between 1671 and 2006.
The twins were discovered by a mushroom hunter in the woods of Minnesota, US in 2016. According to the new study, this discovery marks the first documented case of two-headed white-tailed deer twins brought to full term and birthed.
"It's unbelievable and extremely rare", D'Angelo said in the release.
A two-headed Infant deer Located in the United States is your first conjoined twin Fawn known to have attained full term and be delivered with their own mom, scientists say.
When researchers at the University of Minnesota's veterinary diagnostic laboratory conducted a necropsy and MRI and CT scans of the body, they discovered the female fawns had one body but two separate necks and two heads.
"We can't even estimate the rarity of this", he added in a statement.
"It's never been described before", Lou Cornicelli, co-author of the study and a wildlife research manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, told FOX9. Gino D'Angelo, assistant professor of deer ecology and management at the University of Georgia, led the study of the specimen and published the results in the journal The American Midland Naturalist. The necropsy of the fawns showed that both shared a malformed liver, had extra spleens and gastrointestinal tracts, along with two hearts that had a single pericardial sac.
D'Angelo found that the fawns had never breathed air, proving they were stillborn.
The fact that it was clean and was in a natural position suggested that the doe tried desperately to keep the fawns alive and tried to care for them after delivery. "The maternal instinct is quite powerful", D'Angelo explained.
In order to perform a necropsy on the body of the fawns, the remains were frozen to keep them in good condition.
"Animals that are stillborn, they don't last long on the landscape because of scavengers", Mr Cornicelli said. "The taxidermists, Robert Utne and Jessica Brooks, did a great job with the mount and treated it very respectfully".
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