When two reptilian heads poked out of an egg from a clutch of 10, Victorian snake breeder John McNamara thought he had twins.
Upon splitting the leathery shell last Saturday what he found was something spectacular.
From the tail up he could see a normal baby coastal carpet python, but things started to get freaky from the neck up as two heads peeled off the scaly body like a hydra from Greek mythology.
To Mr McNamara’s excitement the pairing of his five-year-old female snake, known as ‘Mum’, with a male, owned by fellow breeder Ben Robson, had produced a Siamese snake.
It’s said the birth would have been just like a human case of the anomaly.
“There would have been two yolks and they just haven't split properly … and I ended up with this,” he said.
“I've got a lot of mates that breed reptiles, and have rung around and it’s pretty rare in the trade.
“To be alive still is even rarer.”
Snake eggs take 50 to 60 days to hatch, and Mr McNamara said the dual-headed snake appeared to be in reasonable condition considering it had already gone to the bathroom on him.
“The main reason I want to get a little bit of publicity if I can is to try and get a vet to help me out,” he said.
“Just to see see which head is the dominant head and which goes down to the stomach and what organs and other things are joined or can cause complications.”
Mr McNamara’s daughter Kaylah, 10, affectionately refers to the snake, of unknown gender, as the Twin Destroyers.
The snake breeder, however, has gone for a feudal Japanese theme calling the heads Katana and Wakizashi, a short sword, after the weapons used by samurai.
Katana and Wakizashi will need to be as tough as Japanese steel to stay alive.
Hands on Wildlife Townsville’s ranger Dan Damblett said he had heard of double-headed rat snakes living up to the age of 20 but also instances where they would last only a few days.
University of Melbourne School of Bio-Sciences senior lecturer Ben Phillips said depending on how well everything was integrated inside the snake, it could live in captivity for many years.
“They no doubt require extra care,” he said.
“Snakes aren't all that clever, if you throw a mouse to a two-headed snake, it is likely one will grab the front and one will grab the back and they attempt to eat each other.
“There is something fascinating about any animal that has two heads because there is a sense of them being separate entities and the same.”
Dr Phillips and Mr McNamara both agreed the first time the snake was fed would be crucial.