The discovery of a two-headed snake has stirred up considerable excitement among Spanish herpetologists, who are trying to figure out how to take scientific advantage of the oddity.
A farmer found the 2-month-old, nonvenomous, 20-centimeter-long ladder snake (Elaphe scalaris) in a rocky area in the village of Pinoso and handed it over to the Spanish Herpetological Society. Biologist Enrique Font of the University of Valencia plans to conduct neuroimaging studies in an effort to understand how the two heads cooperate in targeting and capturing prey, and what role two brains play in regulating hunger and mediating other behaviors. He also hopes to observe how a female snake will respond to a potential mate with two heads.
Gordon Burghardt, a herpetologist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who has done studies on a two-headed snake of a related species, says the Spanish snake will be particularly interesting if it turns out to have only one digestive system. His own snake subject (now deceased) had two complete throats and stomachs, making it difficult to sort out whether signals that tell a snake it is full come from the stomach or from the mouth and throat. Burghardt and Font will be putting their heads together to look at the latest curiosity.