A photo of a two-headed prawn posted by the Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium on July 5 on Facebook has gone viral. Although popular theories say that the prawn was the result of radioactive contamination, experts explain this is actually a rare natural development also observed among Siamese twins.
“They (Aquarist team) just found this peculiar invertebrate in the frozen prawns packet while getting ready to feed our fish their lunch,” Reef HQ posted on their Facebook page. “We’ve fed out thousands of prawns to the fish over the years but never seen a two-headed one before. Have you?”
Aquarist Laura Colton had to check the two-headed prawn twice to see if it was simply not two invertebrates stuck together. Colton looked if the prawn was caught in the middle of the molt but it wasn’t. Upon close inspection, the prawn even has two sets of legs.
The staff won’t use it as food now. The prawn is being preserved at Reef HQ.
As of now, nearly 450 people have liked the post and more than 250 people have shared it. Some likened it to Blinky the three-eyed fish, the three-eyed orange fish species from the Simpsons, which was mutated by the nuclear power plant.
However, Dean Jerry, a prawn expert as well as a professor and the head of prawn breeding research at James Cook University said that the prawn did not have the same mutation as Blinky did, and it is very unlikely that radiation caused this deformity. During its early development, the prawn’s cells did not split correctly.
This is the first time the professor saw such abnormality in prawns. Normally, animals with such congenital anomalies are unfit and die eventually but Jerry was actually surprised that the prawn had managed to survive this long.
Jerry wants to conduct a DNA test to verify that the heads were both from the same prawn and to know the reason or factors behind this.
Some have also speculated that the prawn was affected by radiation coming from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. However, Colton asserts that it was bought at a local shop, although she does not know where suppliers get the food from.