A rare case of con­joined cetaceans and a half-hu­man sheep “sent by the Devil”

Fortean Times - - Strange Days -


The first known ex­am­ple of con­joined twin har­bour por­poises ( Pho­coena pho­coena) was picked up re­cently by a Dutch trawler near Hoek van Hol­land. With a sin­gle body and two fully-grown heads, this is a case of par­tial twin­ning, or para­pa­gus di­cephalus. These male por­poises are only the 10th known case of con­joined twins in cetaceans, a group of an­i­mals that also in­cludes whales and dol­phins. The fish­er­men who made the dis­cov­ery re­turned the twins – which were prob­a­bly al­ready dead when caught – to the sea. They be­lieved it would be il­le­gal to keep such a spec­i­men, but took a se­ries of pho­to­graphs use­ful for re­search. We know that the twins died shortly af­ter birth, be­cause their tail had not stiff­ened – which is nec­es­sary for new­born dol­phins to be able to swim. Other signs of their age were a flat dor­sal fin that should have be­come ver­ti­cal soon af­ter en­ter­ing the wa­ter, and hairs on the up­per lip, which should fall out shortly af­ter birth.

Par­tial twin­ning can hap­pen in one of two ways: two ini­tially sep­a­rate em­bry­onic discs can fuse to­gether or the zy­gote can only par­tially split dur­ing the early de­vel­op­ment process. “Nor­mal twins are ex­tremely rare in cetaceans,” said Er­win Kom­panje from the Eras­mus MC Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­tre in Rot­ter­dam, one of the authors of the pa­per de­scrib­ing the find. “There is sim­ply not enough room in the body of the fe­male for more than one foe­tus. Con­joined twins will be more com­mon than the 10 cases we know at this mo­ment, but we are un­aware of them be­cause they are born at sea and are never found.” New Sci­en­tist on­line, 14 June 2017


Vil­lagers in South Africa were liv­ing in fear af­ter a sheep gave birth to this strange crea­ture that elders said was a half-hu­man half-beast ‘sent by the devil’. Many of the 4,000 res­i­dents and farm­ers of Lady Frere in Eastern Prov­ince were con­vinced that bes­tial­ity and witch­craft were in­volved. The panic got so great that the au­thor­i­ties sent out ex­perts to carry out tests. Dr Luba­balo Mr­webi, Chief Di­rec­tor of Ve­teri­nary Ser­vices, ad­mit­ted that at first glance the lamb did re­sem­ble a hu­man be­ing. “It is not hu­man,” he said, “but a de­formed still­born lamb sired by a sheep that was sub­se­quently in­fected by Rift Val­ley Fever at an early stage of its preg­nancy.” He said that the freak an­i­mal was con­ceived in late De­cem­ber 2016 or early Jan­uary 2017, a time of plen­ti­ful rain­fall that brings with it many mos­qui­toes and midges, car­ri­ers of viruses that cause the Rift Val­ley Fever in sheep. D.Mail on­line, 22 June 2017.

ABOVE: The con­joined har­bour por­poises caught by a Dutch trawler. BE­LOW: The de­formed still­born sheep that ter­ri­fied lo­cals.

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