Whenever we see conjoined twins, there are a lot of concerns that can run through our minds. What are the chances of the baby’s survival? If they do survive, what is their quality of life going to be like? They haven’t been on the earth more than a few moments and already facing insurmountable obstacles. In the human species, it’s rare to see conjoined twins. We see less than one thousand cases in the US per year. Depending on where the twins were conjoined, they could be in and out of the hospital for years or even for their entire lives.
We manage to muster up sympathy for human conjoined twins, but how about if it were a different type of mammal? Recently, Dutch fisherman in the North Sea snagged a very unusual catch. The North Sea is located in the UK continental shelf. It is a marginal sea part of the Atlantic Ocean. Usually, trawlers in this area tend to catch all kinds of unwanted things. Some trash, bottom feeders, and an occasional porpoise that gets trapped in the net. In this particular situation, the Dutch fisherman caught what appeared to be a two-headed sea creature.
They eventually realized it was not a sea creature, but a conjoined porpoise. Nonetheless, one of the most rare finds in history. There have only been reports of nine cases of conjoined cetaceans, up until the latest accidental discovery. Previously, when conjoined specimens were discovered, they were undeveloped fetuses still in the womb of the mother. An example of this was the “double monster” found in a mother dolphin off the coast of Japan in 1970. The “double monster” had one head and two bodies.
There are documented cases of such anomalies, but no well put together specimens. Erwin Kompanje of the Natural History Museum of Rotterdam, believes the twins were born alive and was extremely disheartened to hear the Dutch fisherman actually threw the carcass back into the sea. The Dutch men were under the impression it was illegal to keep the porpoise, so they returned the body where they found it, but not before snapping a number of pictures. Kompanje believes this is a once in a lifetime find, and he wanted nothing more than the ability to study the sea mammal. The most Kompanje got out of the unusual find, was the ability to co-publish an article with other Marine Biologists, about the porpoise.