When rare discoveries are made amongst wildlife, we make great strides towards learning more about these creatures, about why they were vulnerable to certain conditions and why their biology differs from the norm.
In fact, researchers are now calling the two-year-old discovery of a conjoined white-tailed fawn a groundbreaking case in terms of studies into wildlife deformity.
To discover how the animals were found, check out the video below:
The discovery of the fawns, who were stillborn and described as “freshly dead”, was made by a mushroom hunter in a Minnesota forest.
According to a study published in the science journal American Midland Naturalist, it is believed that this is the first case on record of a conjoined two-headed fawn having reached full term and having been born.
“It’s never been described before,” Lou Cornicelli, a co-author of the study and a wildlife research manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, told FOX9. “There are a few reported cases of two-headed ungulate fetuses, but nothing delivered to term. So, the uniqueness made it special.”
In two of the other recorded cases of conjoined white-tailed deer fawns, neither of them reached the final stage of pregnancy.
The fawns were discovered in May 2016 when a mushroom hunter stumbled across them about a mile away from the Mississippi River in Freeburg.
The hunter then got in touch with the Minnesota DNR, and the fawns were frozen before conducting a necropsy.
After lab tests – including a CT scan and MRI scan – were conducted, it was revealed that the twins had two separate head-neck areas which rejoined along the spine.
According to the co-author of the study, Gino D’Angelo, a researcher at the University of Georgia, their heads, fur, and legs were ordinary, but many of their internal organs were shared or otherwise different from that of the average fawn. They shared a liver and had extra spleens gastrointestinal tracts.
“Their anatomy indicates the fawns would never have been viable,” D’Angelo explained to UGA Today. “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.”
It is not uncommon to find conjoined twins in domestic animals, cattle, and sheep in particular, but it is rare in other kinds of wildlife, D’Angelo explained.
The conjoined fawns have now been mounted in a bed of greenery by Wild Images In Motion Taxidermy where they are positioned as though they are just waking from a nap.
“We all thought it was pretty neat and were glad to be able to show it to the public,” Cornicelli told FOX9. “The taxidermists, Robert Utne and Jessica Brooks, did a great job with the mount and treated it very respectfully.”
Discoveries like these just emphasize how diverse our world is, particularly the animals the reside within it. If you have any interest in seeing the conjoined fawns for yourselves, the mount will be moved to the Minnesota DNR headquarters in St. Paul and put on a public display.