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A Two-Headed Reptile Fossil Has Been Discovered in China

By: April Carson

A two-headed young marine reptile has been discovered by scientists. It lived alongside dinosaurs when they roamed the Earth.

Scientists have discovered a two-headed "dragon" from 145 million years ago that sounds like something out of mythology.

In China, they've discovered a fetus of a baby reptile with two distinct heads and necks. It is considered to be the first example of a creature evolving in such an odd manner.

Researcher Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences in Beijing said that it was "a new type of chimera" - an organism with two different sets of DNA.

The creature, which would have been about 30cm long when fully grown, is thought to have been part of a group known as thalattosaurs. This is a primitive group of marine reptiles that first appeared in the early Jurassic period.

While it's not clear how this creature would have survived in the wild, Xing and his colleagues believe that it may have been born with two heads but only one body.

This is an extraordinary discovery, and one that will surely lead to more questions than answers. But it's a fascinating glimpse into the odd and wonderful world of reptiles.

The discovery, reported in the February 22 issue of the journal Biology Letters, is the first known case of a well-known birth defect called axial bifurcation in living reptiles. When an embryo is harmed and some body parts double up, this occurs.

Buffetaut and his coworkers discovered the bones in the Yixian Formation of northeastern China, a famous fossil trove containing feathered dinosaur and early bird fossils. Hyphalosaurus lingyuanensis , which died at a young age during the Cretaceous period 120 million years ago, was an arboreal hypsilophodontid reptile that lived during the twilight of dinosaur dominance.

The scientists noted that the bones of H. lingyuanensis were "strongly reminiscent" of those seen in two other species of dinosaurs: Scutellosaurus and Agilisaurus . These herbivores had a similar body plan to H. lingyuanensis , with a long tail and neck, but they didn't have any close relatives. That suggests that axial bifurcation might have been more common among early dinosaurs than previously thought.

While Hyphalosaurus was a reptile, it was not a dinosaur. Rather, it belonged to the group of primitive aquatic and semi-aquatic organisms known as choristoderes. Some choristoderes resembled tiny plesiosaurs with barrel-shaped bodies, short tails, paddle-like limbs, and in some cases long serpentine necks—slightly like the mythical Loch Ness monster.

The last category of choristoderes was Hyphalosaurus, which is where the two-headed fossil belonged. An adult Hyphalosaurus might reach three feet in length and would have resembled a fetal Nessie, although it was only three inches long.

“However,” Buffetaut said, “the limbs were not flipper-like as in plesiosaurs. They were more lizard-like than plesiosaur limb-shaped. ”

This two-headed choristodere was a juvenile, and would have been even smaller than an adult Hyphalosaurus. Its neck was short, only about as long as its body, and its limbs were splayed out to the sides.

The exact cause of death is unknown. “It appears to have been a hatchling, and maybe it was stillborn,” Buffetaut said. “Anyhow, it didn't last long.”

The newborn Hyphalosaurus species not only had two heads; it also had two necks. This sort of abnormality is uncommon, but it's well known among modern-day reptiles, such as lizards, snakes, turtles, and tortoises.

“Most of these animals die in the egg or shortly after hatching, but a few make it to adulthood,” Buffetaut said.

Sheep, calves, and kittens are examples of two-headed mammals who live a shorter life span than their single-headed counterparts.

“Due to their simpler brains and actions, two-headed reptiles may survive for a while. They have less sophisticated brains and behaviors than birds or mammals, which might explain why they last so long.” Buffetaut added.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released its first ever “National Water Reuse Strategy,” which outlines a plan to increase water recycling in the United States.

This finding could help scientists better understand how such creatures evolve.

What's most fascinating about this discovery is that each head had its own brain, making this the first known example of a "bisected brain."

The findings were published in the journal Science Advances.

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About the Blogger:

April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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