Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources
May 15, 2018 03:38 PM

An unusual find discovered over two years ago is back in the news.

According to Newsweek, a mushroom hunter stumbled across the body of conjoined fawn twins in the Minnesota woods back in 2016.

While shocking, the find was also important. These are the first known conjoined fawn twins that a deer mother has carried full term and given birth to, even though a necropsy proved the twins were stillborn. Prior to this discovery, conjoined fawns had only been seen in utero, reports the University of Georgia.

These are likely not the first two-headed deer twins born in the wild, but they are the only ones that have been found since these rare animals are likely consumed by predators shortly after birth.

“It’s amazing and extremely rare,” Gino D’Angelo, the University of Georgia researcher who studied the deer, said. “We can’t even estimate the rarity of this. Of the tens of millions of fawns born annually in the U.S., there are probably abnormalities happening in the wild we don’t even know about.”

A rare find led to an even rarer opportunity to study the conjoined fawns and how abnormalities play out in wildlife. The result of the necropsy and study of these twins was recently published in  the science journal American Midland Naturalist.

Through a “full necropsy” and “3D computed tomography — or CT scan — and a magnetic resonance imaging at the University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory,” researchers were able to find that the fawns had a shared liver but two hearts and more than two spleens.

“Their anatomy indicates the fawns would never have been viable,” D’Angelo said “Yet, they were found groomed and in a natural position, suggesting that the doe tried to care for them after delivery. The maternal instinct is very strong.”

While much was learned from this research, science still isn’t sure what causes conjoined twins in deer or in humans.

For those who want to see this wonder with their own eyes, the deer twins will be on display at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource’s headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota.


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