The unique two-headed rat snake has returned to Cameron Park Zoo in Waco after a 2.5-year absence due to injury. It shares one body but has conflicting commands for movement, according to a Dallas Morning News article saying,
“A rare two-headed rat snake has returned to its exhibit at the Cameron Park Zoo in Waco.
The popular snake, which has two brains and one body, is slithering in the zoo’s freshwater aquarium following a 2½-year absence due to injury.
The snake’s heads, Pancho and Lefty, give their shared body conflicting commands, so movement can be sporadic and uncoordinated, said Maddie Michels-Boyce, senior zookeeper for reptiles and amphibians.”
Pancho and Lefty, the two-headed rat snake, have an intriguing history. Initially found as a baby in a woman’s backyard in 2016, they have a rare condition known as bicephaly. This phenomenon dates back millions of years, according to a Smithsonian Magazine article reporting,
“Pancho and Lefty first arrived at the zoo back in 2016. A woman who lives near Waco spotted the snake in her backyard when it was just a baby—at the time, biologists estimated the eight-inch-long creature to be between six and eight weeks old. The reptile, a Western rat snake (Pantherophis obsoletus), underwent an 18-month quarantine before going on display in 2018.
The snake has a rare condition called bicephaly, which occurs when a single embryo starts to divide into identical twins but fails to separate completely. When this situation arises in humans, it’s known as conjoined twins. Scientists can trace the phenomenon back at least 150 million years, thanks to the discovery of a two-headed reptile fossil in present-day China.”
Initially, the left head of the two-headed rat snake was dominant, but now the right brain controls their movements, with the left seemingly going along for the ride.