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2-headed, 2-spined turtle's tale

When Gene Pazian spotted the baby turtle on the step to his dock, he was surprised. When he realized it had two heads, he was amazed.

"I figured I'd better catch it," said Pazian, who lives on a canal in Riverhaven Village. "I didn't think it could make it on its own."

After a phone call to the nearby Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park, Pazian took the turtle there. "The guy who received it knew it was something special," he said.

With a shell less than 2 inches long, the turtle found Sunday appeared to be only a few days old, park wildlife superintendent J. P. Garner said.

Garner, who said the turtle was an elegant slider species, noted that these turtles are common in the area and can grow to be the size of a dinner plate. He said he didn't want to make it a spectacle. "I think we need to teach people about mutations," he said.

How rare is it? "I'm knocking on the door of turning 60, and this is the first one I've seen in my life," Garner said. "This is the first true mutant ninja turtle to hit Homosassa."

Veterinarian Mark Lowe was intrigued by the creature.

"I saw a picture of one, but I've never seen real two-headed turtle before," he said. His staff at Midway Animal Hospital in Homosassa Springs took an X-ray of the turtle to determine what internal organs it had.

"It doesn't show up very well radiographically," Lowe said, "but it appears to have two spines joined in the lower half of its body. If it were human, it would be considered a Siamese."

Lowe attributed the mutation to an egg that started dividing but never finished splitting. "It wouldn't have survived in the wild," he said. "It may do much better at the park."

Lowe and Garner couldn't help finding humor with the little creature.

Lowe said, "I don't think it was caused by radiation from the nuclear plant" in Crystal River

"If it was, this thing could be 9 feet long by tomorrow," Garner said.

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