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The world’s oldest two-headed tortoise named Janus, recently celebrated their special 25th birthday on September 3. They celebrated with a very special party help for them at the Natural History Museum in Geneva and enjoyed some delicious treats with his keeper Angelica Bourgoin. Janus was named after the dicephalous Roman god and serves as the museum’s mascot. The post read, “The mascot of the Geneva Natural History Museum turns 25 on September 3, 2022”.

Bourgoin elaborate on Janus’s unique situation, explaining that Janus’ two heads are equally functional and each brain controls a different side of the body. The head have to work together in order to move their body forward. However, one personality is a bit stronger than the other and the two don’t always agree. “His movements are not fully coordinated, the two heads do not always agree on the direction and sometimes try to take opposite directions.” In his 25-years, Janus had lived out his life at the museum ever since he was brought in as an unhatched egg in 1997. When he finally hatched, the museum staff was quite surprised by his unique two heads. “It was private individuals who brought him still in his egg, at a time when the institution had an animal facility with an incubator and qualified personnel for animal care. It was an incredible discovery to see this baby two-headed turtle come out.”

Once his unique physiology was discovered, experts agreed that he would not be safe in the wild. “In the wild, turtles hide their heads and legs under their shells to protect themselves from predators. With its two heads, Janus has no room to fit into its shell, so the animal would not have survived long other than in captivity. His malformation also does not allow him to get right back if he turns over, which requires constant attention.” However, Janus thrived at the museum getting the attention and space he required. “But our Janus has benefited, and still benefits, from good care (optimised food, baths, massages, walks, etc.) which allow him to celebrate his quarter century, an absolute record!”

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