Well, This Is Freaky: Scientists Find Two-Headed Baby Salamander
Sometimes two heads aren’t better than one.
A female Near Eastern fire salamander collected by scientists from the University of Haifa in Israel recently gave birth to a tadpole with one noggin too many. The researchers speculate that water pollution, radiation, or the species’ small local population might have had something to do with it.
Salamanders are a marker for the “general health of the environment” because of their sensitivity to pollution and changes in their natural surroundings, according to a statement released by the college. So far the team can only theorize about the reasons for the defect, as Leon Blaustein, the ecologist who heads the lab, has asserted. But such mutations bring up a pressing issue: the devastating effects of human activities on wildlife.
Nearly three decades after the explosion of a nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, Ukraine, animals such as wild boars, brown bears, and birds continue to display signs of radioactivity and genetic mutations. In 2012, the EPA linked selenium runoff from mines in Idaho to the physical deformities in native fish.
As for the salamander’s two heads, nicknamed Arne and Sebastian, both are moving, but only one is eating. Blaustein’s lab continues to study the biological mechanisms of the species because—natural mutation or not—it’s facing threats such as habitat loss and soil and water pollution. The Near Eastern fire salamander is endangered locally thanks to dams and encroaching human development, and the International Union for Conservation classifies it as “near threatened.”