Remember the three-eyed fish on The Simpsons? This is weirder.
The body of a one year old polycephalic (Two-headed) dolphin on the Turkish beach of Izmir is making headlines, most of which are laced with apocalyptic hysteria. But is this rare anomoly a sign of the end of days?
The body, which was discovered by local teacher Tugrul Metin. Metin saw the body in the sea and upon further investigation realized what he was seeing was not normal. He told his story to The Daily Mail,
“‘I couldn’t take it in at first – I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me – I’ve never even heard about a dolphin like this let alone seen one with my own eyes – I was completely shocked.”
Metin contacted local authorities and the conjoined body, which reportedly only had one working blow hole, was taken to a laboratory for further examination. Mehmet Gokoglu of Ak Deniz University’s marine biology department was glad for the chance to study the rare occurrence, as there have been few sea mammals to live even a year in the conjoined condition.
Headlines covering the story raise questions about the mutation, much as they did in January when conjoined whales washed up on the shores of Baja California.
Bloggers, vloggers and journalists alike speculate that the incidents may have something to do with the contamination of the earth oceans, though it is highly unlikely we are looking at anything more than nature at work.
Polycephaly, or having two heads is one of the many conditions resulting in the incomplete division of a monozygotic twin embryo,the same division of cells that results in identical twins. A natural occurring accident of nature, it still seems to get everyone in a tizzy when one is found in nature, especially if the subject has managed to survive. In the case of these sea mammal, survival would have been difficult, if not all together impossible. Our two headed dolphin friend, with only one blow hole, likely only survived with the help of its mother. The weight of a second body added to its own, plus the need for more oxygen to maintain it would leave the dolphin with little chance.
In the case of the conjoined whales, which were touted as a mutation cause by the Fukushima disaster, their fate was sealed the moment the zygote broke into two. Being baleen whales, even as fully separated twins they might have had the same fate. While conjoined twins have never been recorded among Gray whales, twins do notoriously poorly as it is challenge enough for a mother to care for one baby whale, let alone two who require protection and 50 gallons of milk a day,each.
The discovery of these natural anomalies, while incredibly useful and interesting to those devoted to the study of marine mammals, should not be considered a sign for the end of the world, or even a cause for fear of what has happened to the worlds seas. However,the fact that these incidents have nothing to do with pollution should not belittle the fact that our oceans, and the creatures that call them home, are in need of our attention.
According to the World Wildlife Federation, 80% of ocean pollution comes from land based activities including farm run off, sewage and toxic chemicals.
Two headed dolphins may not be our biggest worry, but perhaps their presence and the buzz they raise could be used to raise awareness of the very real issue of ocean pollution and the very real impact that it could have not only on sea life, but on all those who rely on the sea. This includes you, human.
Real life solutions to the problem of pollution start with humans understanding their impact. Recycle, clean your beaches and if you’re feeling generous, donate to the World Wildlife Federation or one of the many ocean conservation groups dedicated to turning the tide on ocean pollution.
Are you worried two headed creatures are the wave of the future? Is the recent hysteria good or bad for ocean conservation? Let us know what you think in the comment section below or join the conversation on our Facebook page.
Image: Tugrul Metin/The Associated Press, bichodamata via Reddit