Two-headed snake charms Chilliwack

Two-headed snake charms Chilliwack

The two-and-a-half-year-old snake is extremely rare due to her polycephaly: the condition of being born with more than one head.

At two-and-a-half, she’s not quite like others her age. Noticeably small, she’s less than half the size of her peers and has an odd way of moving, bobbing from side to side as though she doesn’t know where to go.

But it’s her second head that’s the most notable difference.

Named after one of three Greek Gorgons with poisonous snakes in place of hair, Medusa, the gold dust motley corn snake may not turn gazers to stone, but she is a head-turner.

Owned by business partners Darcie Stiller and Amber Quiring, Medusa has been with the pair since birth. However, she’s been living in their downtown pet shop, the Reptile Room, since it opened Sept. 1.

”Amber was incredibly excited about the two heads,” says Stiller, recalling the day Medusa was born. “But I was a bit more reserved,” she continues. “I had seen this once before, and that one only lived three days out of egg. I got excited when she hit six months, I really believed she would survive. She’s like one in a million.”

Medusa’s condition is called dicephalism, which is a form of polycephaly: the condition of having more than one head.

“To put it simply, (she’s) an example of conjoined twins,” explains Dr. Mike Geen, a veterinarian at Coastal Rivers Pet Hospital. “Within a single fertilized egg, the cells undergo repeated divisions (that) would normally lead to two separate embryos, (or) identical twins. If the timing of cell division is off, it can lead to a conjoined twin.”

Dicephalic reptiles are rare, Geen continues, but they’re more commonly reported than in mammals and birds, particularly with snakes, turtles, and tortoises. He says anecdotal estimates range from 1 in every 1,000-10,000 captive snakes being born or hatching with two heads.

Neurologically speaking, a snake brain is somewhat rudimentary, meaning it’s unlikely Medusa would’ve survived had she been born in the wild.

“Her jaw doesn’t open like a normal snake’s would,” Stiller adds. “Her bottom jaw can’t separate (horizontally) because the other head’s there.” And as such, Medusa’s feed can never be increased in size. “Normally you increase the prey size once there’s no food lump anymore, but we can’t do that with her. Chronologically, she’s an adult, but she’s being fed on a baby schedule ,” explains Stiller as she cradles Medusa in her hands.

Dr. Geen agrees. “Having two-heads means two-brains competing to control one body, which would make it very difficult to co-ordinate normal movement required for hunting, and escaping and would likely predispose the snake to being taken by a predator.”

The average life span of a wild corn snake is only about eight years, but, snakes born in captivity can live into their late teens, or 20s. “I read a story about a conjoined snake that not only bred several healthy clutches, but lived until she was more than 18,” adds Quiring.

“As long as there are no developmental abnormalities to the internal organs,” says Geen, “two-headed reptiles can live a happy life.”

And that’s exactly what Stiller and Quiring have in store for their two-headed snake. While Medusa’s a definite attraction, spending her days wowing customers and passers by, Medusa has a life-long home. “We’ll never sell her, she’ll stay with us forever,” says Stiller.

 

Two-headed snake charms Chilliwack

Just Posted

Chief Grace George said the Katzie have written Maple Ridge council expressing concerns about a subdivision along the South Alouette River. (The News files)
Katzie oppose controversial Maple Ridge riverfront subdivision

Approval of development on South Alouette River suddenly taken off Tuesday’s agenda

Sherlene Morley enjoyed every last minute with her mom, Gail Jurick. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge woman celebrates last Mother’s Day with mom

Sharlene Morely had a final Mother’s Day celeration with Gail Jurisk on May 1

David and Julie Kaplan with their children Estelle and Justin. (Special to The News)
BC family whose move was stopped by COVID border closure back on the road

Maple Ridge’s Kaplan family will arrive at their new home in Nova Scotia on Wednesday

A sign to students outside Pitt Meadows secondary. The school is currently listed by Fraser Health as having COVID-19 exposures. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Schools in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows have COVID-19 exposures

Highland Park, Laity View added to list of nine with cases in past two weeks

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

BC Housing minister David Eby. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Eby jabs back against Penticton mayor’s ad urging BC Premier to intervene in shelter dispute

Eby writes that Penticton’s ‘serious’ social issues won’t improve under leadership of the mayor

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

Surrey RCMP is releasing sketches of a suspect in an “indecent act” at the Coyote Creek Elementary playground on April 30, 2021. Police said the suspect was clean-shaven “during some interactions” and on “other occasions had stubble outlining a goatee and mustache.” (Images: Surrey RCMP handout)
Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart addresses supporters in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says there’s no time to redo details of drug decriminalization plan

Kennedy Stewart says a federal election could see the small window of opportunity close on the city’s bid for an exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession of small amounts of drugs

Premier Mike Horgan received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. (Facebook/John Horgan)
More than 50% of people eligible in B.C. have received 1st vaccine dose

‘We’ve made extraordinary progress together over the past few weeks,’ says Premier Horgan

Most Read