A group of fishermen in the North Sea was in for quite a shock when they pulled up their net in May 2017. They pulled up a baby porpoise that had two heads!
It looks just like any porpoise calf, very small which is completely normal for a newborn porpoise, only it had one unavoidable difference – two completely formed heads. It was a baby harbor porpoise.
Harbour porpoise is one of the six different types of porpoise and is one of the smallest marine mammals that you can find in the ocean. As per its name, you generally find them quite close to coasts and river estuaries. They often venture up rivers and have even been spotted hundreds of miles away from the sea. Harbour porpoises prefer subarctic waters though and stay in fjords and bays mostly alone. Occasionally you will find them in packs of up to five, but never more.
Unfortunately, as this poor double headed porpoise found out, they are a big victim of bycatch due to the grill nets used by fishermen. Porpoise are small but can still get stuck in these nets like dolphins and sea turtles. However, these conjoined twins would probably have died very shortly after birth. Conjoined twins in wild animals are very rare, this case, for example, is only the tenth known time this has happened and that is even when you include the whole whale and dolphin family. Of course, it could be much higher, we just do not know about it due to the high mortality rates these sort of cases cause.
These two male calves are the first reported case of harbor porpoises being conjoined twins. The fishermen found them in the Southern North Sea and took some photos before throwing the remains of the specimen back into the ocean as they believed it was illegal to keep it. But it definitely begs the question what other strange and bizarre cases are lurking in the deep ocean!