Herpetologists will tell you that two-headed snakes and other multi-headed reptiles are rare but not unusual creatures usually suffering from polycephaly, a condition caused by twin embryos not separating completely, giving them two heads where only one should be. What a woman in Argentina claimed to have found in her garden was more like an amphisbaena, a mythical serpent with a head at each end. Is that what she found or was it something else?
I had never seen anything like it, it was just like a snake and its eyes were so strange. ‘We all thought it was a mutant animal, which is why we filmed it and put it online for people to give us their opinions.
Luján Eroles of Santa Fe, Argentina, found the 4-inch (10 cm) creature in her courtyard. She believed it to be some form of snake due to its shape and rough skin. A ‘strange’ snake with a head for a tail and what seemed to be one blinking eye. Fearing it might be poisonous, she backed away slowly and called the local wildlife authorities to capture it with proper equipment and return it to the place where the wild things are.
Ha ha! What century are you living in? Luján took pictures and posted them on the new go-to site for all things strange … Facebook. While she got many of the usual “Run for your lives … it’s an alien/mutant/demon!” responses, a general consensus formed around the idea that the creature was not a fearsome serpent but a caterpillar … specifically, a hawk-moth caterpillar, the larva of an interesting but perfectly normal moth of the Sphingidae family. Theses caterpillars have a backward curving spine on the final abdominal segment (tail-end) that looks like a head when it contracts, giving it a strange appearance that it possibly uses to scare away birds and Argentine women who have never seen one before.
For those disappointed that this was not an amphisbaena, keep looking. That ancient expert on all things, Pliny the Elder, described them in his writings and many cultures believed that an amphisbaena worn around the neck of a pregnant woman guaranteed a safe delivery, the skin cured arthritis and the meat was — you guessed it — an aphrodisiac.
The mythical amphisbaena also gives its name to the real Amphisbaenia or worm lizards, which are legless lizards with snakelike bodies whose tails sometimes look like heads.
There was also the famous two-headed rough earth snake (Virginia striatula) found in 2012 in the South Carolina home of the Logan family, which took it to the local Ware Shoals High School biology department, where it was verified as amphicephalous, and then to Fox News where it got the herpetological version of 15 minutes of fame. Its life after that is unknown, although there were rumors it may make a comeback on Dancing With The Stars.
To recap … the two-headed snake in Argentina is most likely a hawk-moth caterpillar, the amphisbaena is still a mythical health care option for pregnant women and the only known real amphicephalous snake may be alive and breeding in South Carolina.