Two-headed snake found
By DANIEL WOOLLS-- The Associated Press
A person holds a two-headed snake in this file photo, after it was found by a farmer in Pinoso, southeastern Spain. Biologists hope to determine if the 25-centimeter reptile, called a ladder snake, has separate digestive tracts and whether one head dominates the other or the two rule in coalition. (AP Photo/EFE, Morell/File)
MADRID (AP) -- Scientists studying a two-headed snake found in Spain have two major questions: Does one head boss the other around? Will the creature ever find a mate?
The star attraction of the University of Valencia's zoology lab these days is a 25 1/2-centimetre ladder snake, a nonpoisonous species native to Spain, Portugal and France.
A farmer in Spain's southeast Alicante province found the snake in February, and it was transferred to Valencia last week. It now lives in a terrarium with a video camera filming every flicker of its two tongues and four eyes.
So far both heads seem to work fine, and move independently, said Vicente Roca, a University of Valencia zoologist taking part in the study.
The snake is about nine-months-old, and it's too early to say if it's male or female. It is pale grey, with dark lines running from head-to-tail and transversal lines connecting them. Hence the name ladder, although the rungs disappear with age and the snakes turn light brown.
When mature, the snakes can be up to 11/2-metres long.
Biologists hope to determine if the snake also has separate digestive tracts -- both heads have been seen eating -- and whether one head dominates the other.
Gordon Burghardt, a consultant from the University of Tennessee, says he has studied two two-headed snakes over the years and both times the heads were so autonomous they even fought over food.
Then there's the issue of reproduction. Roca said once this snake gets settled and its sex is determined, scientists will present it with a normal species of the opposite sex, then watch for a spark.
Sprouting two heads results from flawed embryonic development, probably because of a genetic glitch. In the wild, such snakes are less mobile and thus more vulnerable to predators, so they often have shorter lives.