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Last Updated: Friday, 12 November, 2004, 12:49 GMT
Shell shock at two-headed tortoise
The two-headed tortoise
The tortoise's heads work independently of each other
A two-headed tortoise has come out of its shell in Dorset to find itself in the media spotlight.

The unusual case of a Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise, born two months ago in an incubator, made the headlines in various papers on Friday.

Owner John Jones, from Dorchester, who has 37 tortoises and has kept them for 55 years, said: "I was really surprised - I had never seen anything like it.

"It is perfectly healthy and is running around with all the other tortoises.

"I think each head has its own little brain because they do try to move in different directions."

Although it is an unusual case, it is not unique. In 2003 another two-headed tortoise was found in South Africa.

In the genes

And Jill Martin, of the Tortoise Trust, also hatched one in south Wales in 2001.

She said: "They are very rare but not unknown. It is believed to be a congenital, rather than incubation, problem that causes it."

"These tortoises can't be imported any more like they used to be, but there are breeders in this country.

Both heads eat and sometimes they start on the same piece of food and meet in the middle
John Jones, owner
"They will charge about 100 for a tortoise, but it is impossible to say what a conjoined tortoise would be worth."

Mr Jones, 66, from Dorchester, said he had named the tortoise Solomon and Sheba as he was not sure what sex it was.

"It likes lettuce, tomato, cucumber, cress and runner beans - but its favourite food is milk thistle," he said.

"Both heads eat and sometimes they start on the same piece of food and meet in the middle."

Zoo shells out to save tortoises
29 Sep 04 |  Merseyside
Tortoise takes three-month trip
01 Sep 04 |  Tyne/Wear
Two-headed tortoise born in SA
30 May 03 |  Africa

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