It’s almost the Easter weekend, which means the UK lambing season is well underway! For the past couple of months, exhausted farmers tend their flocks and we all get to see cute lambs springing around in the fields. However most of us know it’s not all nice, with shows like Lambing Live illustrating the unique problems of this time of year.
It unfortunately comes with the territory that with vast numbers of animals being born all at once, there are inevitably mortalities. With such huge numbers of births, there is also a good chance that at some point you’ll encounter some very strange developmental abnormalities.
One such abnormality is conjoined lambs, where two foetuses develop stuck together. These lambs had one body, two necks and a shared head. They also had partially separate organ systems.
These lambs also had a cleft palate in their shared head – a hole in the roof of the mouth, where the bony plate between the nose and mouth hasn’t formed properly. If the lambs had lived, it is likely the milk they drank would have passed into the nose and been inhaled, causing pneumonia.
Conjoined twinning is a relatively common developmental problem in animals, and similar to the parasitic twin phenomenon. It is more often seen in domesticated animals since they have more care and better chances of survival than their wild counterparts.